day 733 | February 13, 2016 | AppJamming - A Coding Workshop

I've been curious about First Code Academy's coding (and robotics!) workshops for more than a year now, since I started looking at programming schools for my younger brother. While I was extremely keen on it, it is a substantial time and financial commitment on an already loaded plate.

Next session of AppJamming is on 16 April 2016, Sunday
2 Hour workshop tailored for 9 - 11 year olds (1pm - 3pm)

When I was informed of this opportunity for a 2-hour workshop for kids, I jumped on it. Booked and paid before getting alignment from Roo and Red. Intent was to give both of them a flavor, some familiarity, and explore if they would be willing to commit more to learning code. Roo's already doing 3 sessions of supplementary Mandarin on top of 2 sessions of Ballet on a weekly basis. And we love our lazy hammock and skateboard chill outs. If we wanted things to work out, she needed to be fully committed and onboard.

Hosted at a lovely venue, the Hub at Prinsep Street, the workshop was well-organized, and reasonably priced (almost a give-away) at $11.50 per kid. That's 2 hours of coffee and book bliss for me while the kids learned something new.

Didn't get to go in, as it's a kids-only workshop -- so sharing stories and impressions from my conversations with Roo and Red:

Roo and Red arrived late from a mad morning shuffle. They walked in while the workshop was already in full swing. Noted about a dozen kids involved. Red was the youngest at 5 years old, and more than half of them looked to be 10 years old and above. Roo also noted there were only 4 girls in class. Would definitely promote having more girls onboard.

They started off with simple game interactions, like working with QR codes to load an app on a phone, then clicking a monkey to do something simple like make a sound, or say "Xin Nian Kuai Le," something which amused both.

After that, they were asked to create a game AppInventor. Roo was excitedly sharing that the program reminded her of the Scratch software when her Tito J was doing programming projects while staying with us for summer vacation. Both programs were developed by MIT and there are plenty of resources online to learn from. She observed that the program has compartments for media, layout, and "blocks." She explains further that blocks are like puzzle-pieces with words, that help give the game instructions on what to do.
Sample Scratch Code - an exercise on Logic and Flow
I'm glad that she had fun with code, and sees them as puzzles. A string of instructions in computer language. When asked if it was difficult, she then mentioned it was challenging to scroll without a mouse, and that the macbook I passed her had run out of battery. I felt mortified -- but glad she soldiered on despite technical difficulties. Equipment issues probably stained the experience for her. Red was also a little distracting, as she started pulling her Tsum tsums out to play. Asked Roo if she would go again, she gave me a "maybe." Right tools, in the company of good friends, a little more idea seeding at home, and I hope to convert that to an unqualified "Yes! More, please."

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