code.org and codesters

a friend of mine that did marketing and communications for a large organization showed me that heavy critique can be a launchpad for discussing who you are and what you have to offer.

so yesterday when i blogged about idit harels quartz article, i found it necessary to review code.org and see what it was like to use once and for all. note that i am not affiliated with them in any way, if anything i am (like harel) in “competition” with code.org, but not any kind of serious competition– more the theoretical variety.

in reality, i think the more tools that are available, the greater the odds that we will find newer more innovative solutions to the problem of computer illiteracy. so i like to at least be aware of as many of these solutions as possible.

in the past ive been wary of mark zuckerbergs endorsement of code.org, as i am no fan of his. i put that aside and looking into the site and its authors, i am pretty impressed. now that ive tried the site (yes, its drag-and-drop coding) i am more impressed. instead of just playing with logo, you have a hi-res cartoon character trace over a practice line. you have to solve for the shape using code– this is great.

for a look at what im working on, you can see that im doing iterations on instructional materials here: figch0and1.gif (281k, 502 x 7144) and im excited that harel is working on / with her / companys own solution at globaloria (and i still think its worth mentioning this in the article criticizing code.org.) but i havent tried it out yet.

like harel, i am personally a fan of helping people write code, vs. drag-and-drop. but i dont think this is right vs. “all wrong” like she describes, there are definitely pros and cons of both concepts.

in the days of basic, dijkstra claimed basic was all wrong, even damaging, while others simply made basic work better. but its difficult to impress me with elitism as ive heard it all before. (n.b.: someone compared my language to pascal the other day. i was very flattered– niklaus wirth is awesome.)

naturally im fascinated with concepts that bridge writing and drag-and-drop, such as greenfoots frames concept: http://www.greenfoot.org/frames/ but since im allergic to java, i can only hat-tip the innovation.

but the best part of reading harels article was this reply to her twitter account:

Provocative, interesting post from our friend @Idit. http://goo.gl/P6ew9E Codesters combines ease of blocks w/ access to actual code.

the video on their site: https://www.codesters.com/ is worth a look. buttons on the left, drag to the code window and it drops code in you can then customize. best idea ever? couldnt tell you. exciting though? absolutely, i like it!

(full disclosure: as a teaching tool / demo, i once made a buggy javascript-based calculator interface that did one keyword (with parameters) at a time, to show what was and wasnt a valid line. the one at codesters is a proper editor, and actually works!)

im not the sort of person that gets drawn in by every shiny new thing. for one, im typing this on an old netbook; almost no one i know uses those anymore. (it was already used when i got it.)

but just like we have more reliable software/design when it is informed by knowledge of the past, we can get good ideas by taking inspiration from the “future”– even when its a hypothetical future, even when a lot of it is hype, and even when most of it is a fad. clearly, part of it is really working and that counts.

i love, i will defend, time-tested concepts. but i dont think all good design ideas are behind us, either. stay open to the next good idea; maybe you can use it as a part of your good/reliable, more old-fashioned solutions.

happy coding!

 

 

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