Dr. Mark Lai visited our Coding Lab this week and offered up support, encouragement, and tips to the children about how computer scientists think and work.
Dr. Lai is a postdoctoral fellow at UT's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences and holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics (i.e. he is a fascinating guy and a great mathematician-role-model). Mark is a friend and avid supporter of our school, and he is collaborating with us as we develop our computer science/coding program. Mark's wife, Elizabeth, leads our coding instruction on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The kids really enjoy Elizabeth's instructional style and have jumped right into the first project she launched: creating a re-mix of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" song.
We are learning to code in Python and we're currently working using the PyCharm environment (easy to download from Jet Brains). We will be switching to using Chromebooks when the ones we ordered for all of the kids (finally) come in the next weeks, and thus we will may be changing our coding environment at that time. We are on the lookout for the right cloud-based environment! If anyone has suggestions, let us know.
Even though we have yet to receive our Chromebooks, we are looking forward to exploring more of a cloud-based computing platform with the kids. Chromebooks are quickly becoming a favorite in education, as they offer a lower price point, there are no issues around sharing (because everything is cloud-based), and they should require much less IT support, since everything is through Google Chrome and thus constantly updated. Chromebooks support a 21st century learning environment that allows for creative thinking, collaboration, and communication among the kids, as well as continuous access to whatever they have created, including their Python projects.