blog by Simon Johnson – Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator and Wolves supporter
Last week was the 6th annual Computing At School (CAS) National Conference. The conference, which was attended by more that 300 delegates, provided an opportunity for teachers to find out about the new curriculum. It also gave teachers the chance to meet and learn from other experienced educators about how to introduce computer science in the classroom.
As well as attending a number of inspiring and thought provoking workshops, I was asked to deliver a workshop of my own on behalf of Microsoft on how to use TouchDevelop to support the new Computing Curriculum. I can honestly say it felt an honour to be delivering a workshop along side the likes of Paul Curzon, Mark Dorling and Phil Gardner (to name but a few). It was also great to chat with other educators about how they plan to and, in some cases, how they are already using TouchDevelop to support the delivery of the new curriculum.
Unfortunately, due to reasons out of my control, not everyone was able to attend. This was a little disappointing, especially given the size of the computer labs. However, at the request of those who were unable make the workshop, below is attached a brief synopsis of the workshop along with resources used in the session. If you have any further questions about the resources in this session, or want to find out more about TouchDevelop, please don’t hesitate to ask!
What is TouchDevelop?
TouchDevelop is an online app creation tool from Microsoft Research. Originally designed to develop Windows Phone 7 apps, the TouchDevelop Web App now allows you to develop Windows Store apps suitable for Windows 8 touch screen devices and runs on iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, Mac, Linux. There is also a dedicated TouchDevelop app on the Windows Phone 8.
Why use TouchDevelop?
No installation required
· HTML 5 based so all you need is a web enabled device and an up-to-date web browser (No installation or plugins needed)
Visual programming environment
· Students aren’t snarled up with syntax
Works on a variety devices
· Supported by a number of platforms (Windows, Android, iOS) and majority of web browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome)
Bridges the gap
· Bridges the gap between BYOB programming environments (such as Scratch and App Inventor) and higher level languages (such as C++, Java and Python etc.)
• Anywhere / anytime learning
• Students have a global audience for their work
• Students can share their apps with a community of other developers and get feedback on their work
Encourages Indie game development
• Looks great on a student’s C.V. – especially if the student has published their app to the Windows / Android app store
I started by introducing TouchDevelop and explaining the benefits of using TouchDevelop in the classroom. I then directed delegates to the TouchDevelop Web App and demonstrated how to get started.
I followed this with a simple (step-by-step) tutorial using the Turtle library in TouchDevelop. The turtle library is a great tool for introducing students to algorithms. It’s also great for introducing iteration as well as discussing the benefits of optimizing code.
Once everyone had got to grips with the turtle library, I challenged them to try out some of the tutorials (below).
Resources used in the session:
• www.touchdevelop.com – TouchDevelop Web App
• www.touchdevelop.weebly.com – SoW, lesson plans, tutorials and resources to support the use of TouchDevelop in the classroom
Tutorials (from the session)
Dice app tutorial
Tap a mole tutorial
Flappy Bird tutorial
TouchDevelop Turing Test (Chat bot tutorial)
Lesson plan to support “chat bot tutorial”
Other useful resources
touchdevelop hour of code – official tutorials from the touchdevelop team.
Build your first app – free online course from Microsoft.
touchdevelop challenge hour of code – step-by-step tutorials created to support the UK hour of code.
touchdevelop Challenge – series of lessons and challenges to get students building games and apps with touchdevelop.
games4learning – Created by David Renton (Extended Lecturer in Games Development: Reid Kerr College, Scotland) A series of YouTube tutorials which introduce students to game design using touchdevelop.
Ray Chambers’ touchdevelop Scheme of Work – A complete scheme of work for touchdevelop which sees students design and create an app from scratch.