Transitioning from tutorials to building unique apps

Mike is about two-thirds finished with the curriculum for his two eighth grade classes at McGlynn Middle School in Medford.

On today’s agenda, the students continued to develop their programming skills with tutorial apps, and also brainstormed ideas for developing their own, unique ones.

I. Finishing up the tutorial apps

The students have been working on different tutorial apps at different paces.

One pair worked on extending “Two Things,” an app that features a picture of an elephant and a picture of a monkey, plus buttons to play their corresponding animal noises. This app requires one sound to pause when another one starts playing – a slightly more complex feature than introductory text-to-speech apps, which play sounds all the way through.

At first, the students struggled with the idea of nesting one logic statement within another in order to detect state – and how, exactly, these statements get ordered. We decided that sometimes, it helps to say the logic out loud in English before trying to fit the blocks together on the fly. The students nearly had this code block working (changing the if-statement to an if-else statement)… when the bell rang!

if-else-almost-finished

Another pair had extended their Digital Doodle app to include more colors:

doodle-more-colors

Excited to get things bouncing around the screen, they moved on to the Mini Golf tutorial. Another pair had similar excitement with the Space Invaders tutorial – but kept getting frustrated by red triangles, which indicate errors in the code. We talked about the importance of resolving bugs as you go, instead of letting them accumulate.

warning-messages-spaceship

II. Developing unique apps

The other part of Mike’s lesson was to get the students thinking about the meaning behind their Martin Luther King app tutorial. What sorts of apps could they create that would be meaningful and helpful to their own communities? Students wrote their ideas on the board over the course of the classes.

8A-themes    8B-themes

Most of these ideas related to their own interests and hobbies:

  • a tutorial app that would help someone maintain/fix a motocross vehicle
  • a tuning fork app that can help musicians tune their violins and cellos
  • a drawing app that will help basketball coaches explain plays to the team
  • a fill-in-the-blank grammar game that will help children learn the parts of speech

Next class, the students will vote on which ideas they like best, and will begin developing their own unique apps.

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