Extending the text-to-speech app

Mike is an engineering teacher, so his kids work in a spacious lab with lots of work areas, not just computers:

Mike's engineering classroom at Andrews Middle School
Mike’s engineering classroom at McGlynn Middle School

This was Mike’s 7th day into the Pathways in CS curriculum. Some of his students continued work on their versions of the MIT TalkToMe demonstration text-to-speech app, while others began the MIT Digital Doodle app. Like the other project classrooms, students were working in pairs, and midway through the class period, Mike asked them to “switch drivers” so that all students had mouse/keyboard time.

Some of his students were taking TalkToMe in fun directions. One pair of girls was working on “virtual boyfriend” app. When you pressed the button on the screen, the app would tell you a story in a deep British accent.

Another group was working on a Fortune Teller. Using App Inventor’s random number generator, the app would answer “Yes” or “No” to the question you typed in. Their code looked like this:

Fortune teller code—depending on the length of your question, you're more or less likely to get a “Yes” as the answer.
Fortune teller code—depending on the length of your question, you’re more or less likely to get a “Yes” as the answer.

The kid named Simon had keyed in the question—“Simon is awesome.” At first, their number range was from 1 to 50, so the app was mostly saying “No.” I encouraged them to think about how likely it was to say yes or no. At first they thought it was just random—or equally likely—but then the realized they were getting lots more No’s then Yes’s, and changed the range from 1 to 25. (The threshold between No and Yes is the length of the question-string. I had previously helped them with the length block.)

After class, Mike showed me his 15-session lesson plan for the project. He is taking notes after each session as to what’s actually been accomplished each day. Here’s the plan:

Mike class Mar 17_2

In the next class, he’ll be helping student learn about audio files, and getting them thinking about their final apps.


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