Coding vs Programming are they the same thing?

Interesting how you can sometimes find yourself feeling older in subtle ways. Yesterday in class my students wanted to make a distinction between coding and programming.  Almost every student felt that the two terms were different.  While has done an amazing job at bringing CS to the forefront of education, politicians, and parents, why do my kids now think these two things are different?  Well when I got to the bottom of it, many of the students identified the block-based tools they were using as coding – that had been programmed by someone else for them to use!  Still, other students thought that if you created a game you were a coder, and if you created software to run things then you were a programmer.  Hmmmm. What’s happened here? How did these become two separate things? The old computer programmer in me is befuddled by this change. But language is a living thing. If I remember the introduction of the words newbie, selfie, and googling into the dictionary, maybe they are correct in making a distinction?


So I don’t often call the mothership for tech support, but when I do…

I recently updated my iPhone.  Since my 6 had become ridiculously slow and unresponsive, it was time to make the switch.  Ok. So it’s all updated, transferred and I’m good to go.  Then the first phone calls came in and the ringtone was disappointing.  Why? because it was the same default one.  All of my ringtones that I had customized over the years had disappeared.

So I waited until I had some time today to play with them.  The first step, find them on the phone. Nope, not there.  Next step, some research to find them in iTunes.  I learned the folder is still there, but it doesn’t show up anywhere inside iTunes.  Next, I dragged the files to the device in iTunes.  It shows them as being there, on the phone, but not in the menu of options when I go to set them. Where are they?  Ok, attempt 6.  Go to Garageband and make a couple of new ones.  Share them to iTunes.  Go to iTunes into tones, they aren’t there. What the heck. This is frustrating.  Several youtube videos and web cult of mac pages later and still no progress.  I’m now in hour 3. Time to call the experts.

The first guy in tech support Rex said yeah, he can help me.  We shared screens. He couldn’t figure out where they were or how to reach them after several steps lots of finder searches.  Time to elevate to tier 2.  Chris assured me he was an expert and it would be easy to do.  Shares the screen again.  Oh, update your garage band. Ok, did that. Hmmm. Still not working. Puts me on hold. Finally comes back and says, yeah, this is weird it’s not working on his machine either.  Takes my number and gives me his contact info and says he needs more time to research and he will call me back in a bit with the answer.  And I am still waiting.

I guess it’s good that I don’t call the experts very often and can usually figure out a lot of stuff through research online.  But when I do call, it’s a doozy.  Moral of the story, if you have an X, your self-created ringtones might be toast.

Thinking about Tweens Online

I have been doing a little digging on this topic to get ready for a parent coffee.  Although the sites are ever-changing my advice is somewhat constant.

  • Don’t be afraid to look at your child’s device, in fact let them know you will be looking
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. There are some sites that are just inappropriate – little good has come from sites like yik yak – that allow users to be anonymous.  Any time kids can be anonymous they try on different personalities and even the nicest kid can do mean things – because they are trying on a personna that is not them!
  • Any sites you do allow your child on be sure to check privacy settings. And then keep rechecking them because many will change them from time to time, it’s part of the game.
  • If sites don’t allow accounts for kids under 13, then try to keep your child off of them, and if you can’t be sure to watch the account with them.
  • Don’t assume your child knows more about technology than you do.  Lack of fear is not the same as learning and being educated!  Take the time to work together. You have a great opportunity to set ground rules for your teen and BE A PARENT!

Here is an interesting article Reaching Gen Y-Fi about tweens. The punchline is that tweens are a big market and advertisers are looking for them.

What do we need to teach children?

In today’s world of constant access what children need to learn may be changing. While I don’t believe that children’s brains have changed because of technology, what they need to know may now be different.  Does memorization still have as important a place at the table?  Memorization as a skill will always be needed. Is memorization of trivial facts and figures as important as it used to be?

Consider the alphabet.  Absolutely young children need to learn their letters to learn how to read. But do they really need to learn the alphabet in order?  Most immediately jump to the answer that of course, there is no doubt that alphabetical order is as basic as well, your abc’s! But consider this, is it really so important that students know the letters in order?  In teaching computer science we teach sorting and searching.  In a computer language, it is easiest to sort according to the ASCII table.  If you didn’t realize it, the ASCII table is not in alphabetical order.  While the letters on the table are sequential, most are surprised to learn the B comes before a, and all of the numbers come before any letters.  When writing code to do a search you must compare ASCII values, not code to the alphabet.  While understanding ordinality is an important concept, is alphabetizing a thing of the past?  Why do we really need it anymore? When we search we are generally letting a device do it for us. As more records become digital, is there any purpose to knowing the order of the letters anymore?

My FETC’15 highlights:


If these are your areas of interest you’ve probably already seen the following but these are the highlights of what was new (somewhat or a new way to think about something old)  to me this year 😉  Overall, there wasn’t a lot new, but the biggest buzz was blended learning, maker spaces, and GBL and gamification

The gaming folks have probably all seen this, but I learned of (Links to an external site.) at FETC this week. Also look into the work of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. (Links to an external site.) (I had never seen this) – a game to map the brain..(a student of mine showed me this one he spends hours on it)

uni is a deaf translator that looks quite cool on a tablet for kids as well as (Links to an external site.) look interesting.

Big Brother 30 years later

When I was young, probably jr. high, we read George Orwell’s 1984. At that point the big brother world seemed science fiction. I’ve been doing some reading about Big Data. It fascinates me. The idea that statistics, the thing that gave me such fits as an undergrad, and understanding sample size will be a thing of the past. For in Big Data N = population is a liberating concept. But it is 2014, 30 years from the title of the book and this happens.
I compose an email from a gmail account. No big deal. In the body of the text I type attached is where I proceeded to embed a link. When I hit send, Google came back and gave me a warning. The gist of which was we see you have an attachment, and you don’t have a file attached, do you want to still send this email now?
Yikes! Google is reading my email. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Maybe this feature could have saved me some professional embarrassment over the years when I didn’t attach the things I meant to, but on some level Google reading my email I haven’t sent yet is really bothering me!!