Saturday, June 29, 2019

educational computing: personal index

In the past 18 months I've resumed my intensive study of educational computing issues, sometimes with a focus on bringing computing to the indigenous and disadvantaged. This is a list of articles on this blog that I've written:

The three game changers and disadvantaged youth

Integrating the digital technology curriculum with indigenous knowledge systems

Digital innovation in secondary education

Indigi digi 2020

Proposal for an Australian Indigenous Version of Culturally Situated Design Tools

My evolving mangle -> ethnocomputing

Skills and dispositions utilised in simulating a NAIDOC poster using Turtle Art

second iteration of a NAIDOC week poster using Turtle Art

First iteration of a NAIDOC week poster using Turtle Art

How to evaluate construction kits: ten design principles

would you like to see a toilet roll dance?

bee waggle project with the Hummingbird Bit

Turtle art: beautiful maths

Making sense of the micro:bit

Arrernte Language app

My educational computing CV update

New microbit affordances

Bushwalking near Alice Springs

The teaching of coding

Write your own apps

Indigenous icons activity

Help Desk


an old quote from Hal Abelson

Inspirational example of making a difference

Tangible digital education theory

Mobile digital educational

Mobile digital educational course update

Bret Victor

Digital Immersion Mongrel Vygotsky

Technology as Trickster revisited

Technology and Indigenous Progress

RACHEL is the answer

Why software might be superior knowledge

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

turtle art: beautiful maths

You might be interested in Turtle Art. The underlying idea is to turn maths into an art form. A turtle is programmed to move around the screen drawing lines or dots of different thickness, colour and shade. It is fairly amazing how beautiful the end products can look. I plan to use it to get kids more engaged with numbers, that numbers can be used to produce art as well as their other uses.

There is a gallery here showing what can be done:

I've been studying the code behind some of the pictures and think I now have a good understanding of how many of the effects can be achieved.

Initially, my idea was that some aboriginal art could be imitated using Turtle Art, eg. dot paintings. Possibly this could be done. But I'm thinking more now that Turtle Art is just an art form in it's own right, with its own characteristics (some things are easy to do, some things harder to do in this form). It's also possible that some or many aboriginal people may not want their art imitated in digital form. I don't really know.
Turtle Art has been developed by Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert. For more information about the sort of software that Brian Silverman has been producing go to the Playful Invention Company Project page

Turtle, Art, Turtle Art by Paula Bonta, Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman (2010)

Turtle Art Software by Gary Stager
This article contains a link to Gary's Turtle Art cards which I found extremely useful. Thanks, Gary!

Saturday, June 22, 2019


A bit of fun with the tangram at school:

Friday, June 21, 2019

making sense of the micro:bit

For me, the immediate attraction of the micro:bit was it’s low cost combined with it’s block coding and wicked on line simulator at

This has led to a personal learning curve about it’s capabilities and it’s connections.

By its capabilites I mean what this technology offers for educators and what it leaves out and so requires further, thoughtful expenditure.

By its connections I mean what forces are pushing and promoting the micro:bit (very relevant to its current and future success) and how does it integrate into the broader movement of what we tend to think of, either with one eyed hyped enthusiasm, “STEM conquers the world”, or ironically, “unstoppable technological progress”.

How and where does the micro:bit fit into the bewildering array of new technologies and companies ushered in by the maker movement? To list just some of the technologies: Makey Makey, Arduino, Little Bits, Ozobot, Micro:bit, Chibi Chip, Circuit Playground Express, Lilypad, Bee-Bot, Dash and Dot, Sphero, Edison, Drones – add or choose your favourite.

With such a wide choice what is needed is some meaningful evaluation. CSER Digital Technologies has made a beginning to this task, although more needs to be done.

I’ll adopt the Martinez / Stager overview that two out of three “game changers” are wrapped up in the micro:bit, namely coding and physical computing.

By physical computing I mean tangible devices which take computing beyond the confines of the screen.

With blocks, coding has become easier and accessible to the 99%. This began with Scratch and now everyone has jumped on board. Makecode has been developed by MicroSoft.

Arduino has been around for a while but a huge issue which always put me off was that it required coding in C. This presents a big barrier to inclusion for all.

Micro:bit coding with MakeCode is far simpler with blocks (and JavaScript and MicroPython are also available). The micro:bit is also a new species of microcontroller in that it has buttons, sensors and display built right into the board.

The micro:bit does require a bigger computer to code it. But once coded and untethered we step outside of the computer lab into the world of mobile and wearable computers.

By way of illustration, some of the interesting things you can do with the micro:bit include:
  • make a game of rock, paper, scissors and strap it to your wrist to play
  • use the on board accelerometer to make a simplified version of Pacman (Hero), the character moves by tilting the microbit
  • use the radio to send messages between microbits
Scratch3.0, which was released in January 2019, includes a microbit extension which enable two way interactivity between Scratch and the microbit. For examples, you can write code about whether students prefer cats and dogs by pressing the A or B button on the microbit. This can be adapted to voting on anything. Pass the laptop around the room and as the votes appear on the screen a cat or dog icon is stamped as well. This requires Scratch Link and bluetooth 4.

Initially, the microbit requires tethering through the USB cable, you write your Makecode, test it on the simulator, flash it over to the micro:bit and then untether, connect your battery and take it outside, if you want.

With the further development, however, of Microblocks, you can have live coding before the untethering. MicroBlocks runs right inside the microcontroller board so as you write your code you see the effects immediately on the microbit.

The microbit is inexpensive hardware so inevitably it does have some limitations. Since kids love sounds one important limitation is no onboard speaker. But it does have 25 edge connector pins and four ring connectors which enables speakers, motors, light and more sensors to be connected.

Of course, this leads to more expense and decisions have to be made about the best way to go. I bought both the Kitronik Inventor’s Kit and the Monk Makes Electronics Starter Kit for microbit. They were both good but I’d put in a special mention for the Monk Makes speaker.

For more ambitious projects with a STEAM philosophy (A for Art) Martinez and Stager recommend the Hummingbird Bit developed by Tom Lauwers of Birdbrain technologies. This is more expensive, especially with our current exchange rate, and I’ve yet to trial it fully but it’s looking good to me so far.

I think there has to be a pragmatic yet deep educational programme underwriting the technology. For me, this is provided by the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide developed by the Creative Computing Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

So rich has this new era become that it threatens us with metaphorical overload. The original metaphor from Seymour Papert was low floor, high ceiling (easy start, no limits). Then Mitch Resnik included wide walls (diversity in projects). Then with the remix features on the Scratch site, Yasmin Kafai and Quinn Burke added on open windows (for collaboration). Then with the micro:bit microcontroller we can move outside the house, wear it and play.


Creative Computing Curriculum Guide

CSER Digital Technologies Lending Library and Lesson Plans

Maloney, John. Microblocks:Live Programming For Microcontrollers

Martinez, Sylvia and Stager, Gary. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom (2nd Edition, 2019)

Gary Stager's Cards for Scratch and the microbit

Hummingbird Bit

Kafai, Yasmin and Burke, Quinn. Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming (2016)

Kitronik Inventor's Kit for BBC micro:bit

Makecode micro:bit editor



Monk Makes Electronic Starter Kit for micro:bit


Saturday, June 15, 2019

extreme weather and inconvenient truths

Inconvenient truth 1: There is no convincing evidence of a link between extreme weather and climate change.

Inconvenient truth 2: Well researched scientists (eg. Roger Pielke jnr, Judith Curry) who argue for Inconvenient truth 1 will be falsely, maliciously and relentlessly accused of being climate change deniers, in the pay of energy companies etc.

My Evidence:
Twitter thread roll out by Roger Pielke jnr
(an incredible must read!)

Ross McKitrick: This scientist proved climate change isn’t causing extreme weather — so politicians attacked

Extremes by Judith Curry

Related (in this blog):
The Climate Fix by Roger Pielke jnr

a new inconvenient truth

environmental talking points and references

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Hey Pedrea!

Best to watch on the YouTube link

When you are rich and famous don't forget your old friends ;-)

More: Cheeky comedy 'Robbie Hood' premieres Friday 5 July on SBS On Demand

Director Dylan River said:
“Robbie Hood is my gift to the youth of Alice Springs and the rest of the world. It's inspired by my own life and the first-hand experiences of my friends and family. The show is a combination of the highs and lows of our upbringing in a small desert town that we have a love hate relationship with. I am thrilled to see these stories come to life and find their home on SBS.”

Sunday, June 02, 2019

the cross

Just down the road from where I teach you can find this cross.

I never knew what it meant until I read Kieran Finnane's book Trouble: On Trial in Central Australia

I won't attempt to explain it here. It's not possible to do the issues justice in a few words.

But for anyone who wants to understand our frontier, where whites and blacks still mingle but more often than not without communicating, I'd strongly recommend this book.