Vidcode Connects With Makey Makey to go Bananas: A New Computer Science Project

Ever played music with apricots? How about gamed on potatoes? How about used bananas to produce special effects? You and your students can follow this tutorial to code a Vidcode project that does exactly that! We are making video art with code + common breakfast fruits in conjunction with Makey Makey.

Makey Makey is a STEM education kit that lets kids use conductive materials as video controllers. They not only learn to code, but to have fun with hilarious tactile controllers made from everyday items in fantastic DIY invention projects.

Vidcode is a great curriculum set and workstation for kids to learn JavaScript in a way that’s fun, completely interactive, and speaks to tween culture -- they code meme generators, Snapchat filters, and interactive games.

You and your students can create this project in conjunction with the Vidcode Coding Sandbox and Makey Makey lab kit to let kids to control videos they upload with the controller of their own making, pixelating and distorting their video as they wish.

Vidcode + Makey Makey Project Tutorial

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You and your students are going to be making a controller that can change their video’s pixelation. See the final project on Vidcode.

To start, you’ll need:

Part 1: Signup

To access this coding project with your students, sign in or create a free Vidcode educator account, and add students from your class dashboard.

Guide students to the Sandbox under “Coding Kit”.

Part 2: Code

1. Students select a video, or upload one of their own. Your students’ video will appear, and so will the code that makes the video run!

2. Next, have students drag “Pixelate” into the text editor. Change the number 50 in pixelate(50); - what happens? What’s the highest the number can go before it stops changing? What happens if students put in a negative number?

3. Set pixelate to a variable. For example:

var pix = pixelate(10); 

This variable stores the pixelate() function, so that it can be changed later in the project’s code.

4. Next, students drag in whenKeyDown under Effects. Look at the code - it creates an event listener that runs a function when someone presses a particular key. You and your students define what this key is in your code.

movie.whenKeyDown = function(key) {
    //your code here 
};
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The name whenKeyDown describes what kind of event you want to "listen" for, and since it is a method, we set it equal to a function that’s listening for a key on your keyboard to be pressed.

5. You’re almost done with the coding part of the project! Next, you and your students need to specify what happens when a specific key gets selected. When a user presses the up arrow on their keyboard, the video should get more pixelated. When they press the down arrow, it should get less pixelated.

The first step is to write a conditional in the whenKeyDown function. The most common conditional is an if-statement. Imagine if you're giving someone directions. You can say, if you see a red house, turn left. An if-statement is like that, but in a language your computer can read.

Have your students write an if-statement inside of their whenKeyDown function. This will look like:

movie.whenKeyDown = function(key) {
    if (true){
      //students will add code here soon!
    }
};

Which key gets pressed will be the condition that gets checked in your conditional statement. The condition is set inside the parenthesis after if.

6. Set your condition so that if key pressed is 'ArrowUp', the amount of pixelation in your video will change. For example:

if(key == "ArrowUp"){
    //increase pixelation on my video
}

In English, this is saying check if the key that’s pressed is ArrowUp, or the up arrow.

Have your students set their condition to key == "ArrowUp". Nothing should change yet. That's okay!

7. Now that a condition is set, your students will have to specify what happens when the up arrow is pressed. Remember, when the up arrow is pressed, the amount of pixelation affecting the video should increase.

Let's make this video get more pixelated! Increment means "add one to". It looks like this: pix.amount +=1;

Have your students add the code pix.amount +=1; inside of their conditional. The final code should look like this:

movie.whenKeyDown = function(key) {
    if (key === 'ArrowUp'){
      pix.amount +=1;
    }
};

Try pressing the up arrow! Students’ videos should get more pixelated every time the up arrow is pressed.

8. Student Challenge: Write another conditional inside the whenKeyDown function that decreases pixelation when the down-arrow is pressed. Key should be set to 'ArrowDown'. You can always look at the final project if you need a hint!

Amazing! Now that the coding part of the project is done, your students can publish their projects. They can always go back later to add additional effects.

Part 3: Connecting to Makey Makey

Time to connect your Makey Makey! First, turn your Makey Makey on by plugging it into your computer with a USB cable.

You’ll want to connect to your up arrow to the Makey Makey. Connect an alligator clip to the up arrow on your Makey Makey. You’ll also connect an alligator clip to “Earth,” at the bottom. If you touch the two clips together, they’ll make a circuit, and your video will increase in pixelation!

Instead of just connecting the circuit with alligator clips, you can connect something to be your controller - like a banana! To do this, just connect the alligator clip going from Up Arrow into a banana. Now, you can hold the clip going to “Earth”, and touch the banana to increase the video’s pixelation.

Do the same thing to “Down Arrow” - connect an alligator clip to the down arrow on the Makey Maky. You can connect this to another banana, and hold the “Earth” clip to use both to controller the pixelation of your video! Have all your students try it.

How else could students create fun controllers for their video? How about giant up and down arrows made of tinfoil? Students could also go back into their code and add more conditionals tied to multiple effects and different keys. They could change the color of their video, or whether or not it’s black and white, and make a Video DJ controller to use on a project that’s uniquely to them!

See the final project & code!


Research Study: Student Engagement and Learning with Vidcode

About the Study

In December 2018, Vidcode partnered with WestEd, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research agency, to conduct a rigorous study of the Vidcode platform and curriculum’s potential impact on student learning. The goal of the study was to examine changes to student learning and attitudes towards computer science after using Vidcode in the classroom.

For this study, teachers used 10 hours of activities and lesson plans in the Creative Coding 1 course.

Main Takeaways

  • Students’ understanding of CS concepts improved, and teachers felt students could apply what they learned in other programming contexts.

  • Vidcode was highly engaging to students, and appealed to girls as much as it did to boys.

  • Vidcode was successful in reaching students who might not have otherwise tried coding.

  • 88% of students say they enjoy studying computer science using Vidcode.

Study Details

Four classrooms participated in the study. Two served as the treatment group and implemented Vidcode lessons, while two classrooms served as the control group and did not use Vidcode.

 
 

The student pre and post surveys were the same, and included ten multiple choice items measuring knowledge of the following coding concepts: variables, sequencing, loops, incrementation and randomness (the ability to make a range of numbers, such as by indexing arrays). Most items measured knowledge around these coding concepts in the programming language JavaScript. The items measuring knowledge of variables, sequencing and loops were adapted from a researcher-developed content assessment that was piloted, refined and implemented in WestEd’s Computer Science Pedagogical Content Knowledge Research Study.

Outcomes

Students who used Vidcode for 10 hours saw a 20% increase in their understanding of coding loops, variables and sequences, based on the pre and post content assessment, compared to the control group.

Students increased their understanding of loops, variables and sequences after 10 days.

students learned skills that can be applied anywhere

Research data suggests students could take what they’ve learned with Vidcode and apply the concepts in different programming contexts. One teacher said, “I’m sure [students] can go on to other coding programs… With this program they can take it and jump.”

Teachers also felt that through Vidcode, students improved at debugging code. One teacher said: “Everything [students] were learning is like, oh wait, I forgot a semicolon, or wait, I forgot to include the parentheses… They could problem solve themselves and figure out why their code wasn’t working.”

Student Engagement

Qualitative data indicates that students were very engaged using Vidcode and that the platform appealed equally to boys and girls. “The girls were all over it, I was very pleased with the fact that they were equally as interested as the boys seemed to be.”

Teachers reported that the artistic component of Vidcode helped engage girls in their classroom: “I think bringing in that visual part had changed their minds on trying to code. I don’t think a couple of my girls in there would have ever tried coding without that visual part.”

The girls were all over it, I was very pleased with the fact that they were equally as interested as the boys seemed to be.

Vidcode engaged students who weren’t interested in coding

Teachers felt that Vidcode helped increase students’ confidence in their coding abilities and expressed that Vidcode was successful in reaching students who might not have otherwise tried a text-based programming language like JavaScript.

“I have kids say ‘I was afraid of JavaScript at the beginning. I didn’t really want to do that.’ And with Vidcode they’re not afraid of [coding]. And that’s a big deal, for these kids to not be afraid to try another kind of coding.”

With the research conducted with Vidcode and WestEd, teachers saw student understanding of computer science and willingness to code improve.

If you’re interested in learning more about Vidcode’s research or platform, or to learn about how to build your district’s computer science program, get more information or set up a time to talk.

Job Spotlight: Computer Programmer

Every month in 2019, Vidcode is going to be releasing a new blog post focusing on career pathways and role models related to computer science, along with related activities that you can do with your students.

The January Job Spotlight is: Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write the code that powers everything, from apps on your phone to websites you visit to software that powers hospitals and schools. They often work together, reviewing code and pair programming. Computer programmers write code in languages such as JavaScript - the language students learn to create projects with on Vidcode. For example, computer programmers customize Instagram filters - one of the very first free activities you can do with your students on Vidcode.

After completing the “Create a Filter” tutorial on Vidcode, you can discuss with your class: What do computer programmers make? How does coding change agriculture, energy and education, or other industries? How do computer programmers fit into that?

This month’s career role model is Lauren Reeves, a software developer at Postmates. Read her story with your students to get inspired by her journey into software development.

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In the “Create a Filter'“ tutorial, students code a cool filter for a video by using JavaScript functions, and learn the syntax of calling a function. To complete “Create a Filter” with your students, sign up here and add students to you class. “Create a Filter” is the first activity in “Creative Coding 1.” You can access it free with your account.

Case study: coding across subject areas with Vidcode

Vidcode offers several cross-disciplinary courses that serve as an introduction to programming in connection with other subject areas. Cross-disciplinary computer programming activities serve as an introduction to students who might not otherwise get exposure to computer science and coding! Here are some case studies of amazing teachers that have used Vidcode to teach JavaScript programming across subject areas.

PS 34 Oliver H. Perry Elementary School

Brooklyn, New York

90 students

Subject: Social Studies

Code Objectives: Properties, conditionals, and loops

Other Learning Objectives: 21st century communication and digital literacy skills; Using technology to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information

ESL Spotlight

“I don’t think I would have gotten as many ESL students involved if I hadn’t proclaimed - This [coding] is done in partnerships. This is how the world works. It’s not built in isolation. Students who struggle with writing or academics, or are new to the country, showing them that this is done in community and in partnerships, in friendship. Also made it interesting for my ESL students. The vidcode curriculum helps dispel the stereotype that there is this lone programmer working by themselves”

- Shanti Crawford, 5th Grade Teacher

Project Example

“Students researched women who made a positive impact in the world. Some students chose Dolores Huerta. Others chose Michelle Obama and Marie Curie. Students coded motivational quotes and facts about their person of choice which appeared at the end of the animation.”

- Shanti

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Seth Low Intermediate School

Brooklyn, New York

60 students

Subject: Science

Code Objectives: Repeat functions, and mouse interaction

Other Learning Objectives: 21st century communication and digital literacy skills; Using technology to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information

Teacher: Candace Miller, 7th Grade Teacher

Project Examples

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Milbourne Lodge Prep School

Esher, United Kingdom

90 students

Subject: Literature

Code Objectives: Properties, conditionals, and loops

Other Learning Objectives: 21st century communication and digital literacy skills; Using technology to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information

“At my school we have freedom with curriculum. The theme is Arthur Ransome and we collaborated with IT and Art. Students created 1930s postcards that represented places in Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons.’

I tried other platforms—and found them cold, distant, too adult. Vidcode is so young and vibrant. It gives students a sense of ownership. Vidcode is wonderfully visual and students don’t get left behind, as can easily happen on other platforms. I want students to leave a lesson feeling comfortable with JavaScript.”

- Sybil Cary, 6th Grade Teacher

Project Examples

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Kennedy Middle School

Redwood City, CA

90 students

Subject: Math

Code Objectives: Properties, data types, and if/else statements

Other Learning Objectives: Students learn advanced concepts in JavaScript and the use of programming integrating math concepts from algebra and geometry.


“With Creative Math on Vidcode, I can literally take any assignment I’m working on in my math unit and have students reflect on what they are learning through Vidcode by having them create a digital media representation of the math concept”

- Emily Thomforde, 7th Grade Teacher

Falling in love with code at a museum

As the co-founder and CEO of Vidcode, I found my passion for code in an atypical location - a modern art museum.

Heat Sculpture, 2013 - gelatin, glass, copper, 2 usb coffee mug warmers, an arduino, and a kinect

Heat Sculpture, 2013 - gelatin, glass, copper, 2 usb coffee mug warmers, an arduino, and a kinect

I fell in love with art in high school. Flash forward ten years, and I’m a working photographer in New York City. Around this time I went to an art exhibition at the MoMA called "Talk to Me" - which was all about interactive art and human-computer interaction. It changed my life forever. I had no idea, until that moment, the role that technology could play in the things I loved - art, psychology and education.

Interactive installation, 2013

Interactive installation, 2013

I started building interactive art projects - a heat sculpture (made out of copper tubing and circuits) that melts plastic according to the number of people walking by it. A large gallery installation, where two projections create a lenticular display. Never before had I been able to make art that responded to the audience.

Flash forward another few years, that spark inspired me to start a company - Vidcode - so that teens today don’t have to go through a 10-year discovery process to learn that their love for art and creative expression is directly connecting to computer programming.

I invite you to share this post with your students and have them start art coding today! A great place to start is our Hour of Code Art + Code activities.

Back to School with Code

With such high demand for computer science courses in schools, teachers across the world have stepped up to make sure their students have access to these learning opportunities. These educators work to provide up-to-date tools for their classrooms, regardless of whether they themselves have a traditional technology background. We are honored to work with these dedicated teachers in increasing the number of students interested in STEAM subjects.

The start of the new school year is almost upon us and we have some back to school tips to help you be at your most ready. Follow along to make the most of your Vidcode curriculum!

 

1. Create a class

To get started, you can create a brand new class for the year and add your students. Students sign up using their Google accounts - just use the link in your teacher dashboard to add them to your class.

 

2. Plan ahead

Review lesson plans ahead of time: simply click “Lesson Plans” in the left-hand menu and you will have access to all your unit material.

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3. Explore free tutorials

Check out our newest free tutorial, End Plastic Pollution! The goal of this coding lesson is to increase students’ awareness of the problem of plastic pollution and is perfect for beginners.

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Are your students ready for the next step? A great tutorial for students with coding experience is another Hour of Code lesson: Eclipse! Explore all of the free activities by assigning "Free Activities" to a class from your Teacher Dashboard.

 

4. Get in the Back-to-School spirit

Get your students excited for the year of coding with a popular activity that lets them code back-to-school Snapchat filters. Use these links to for the activity, lesson plans, and a gallery of past projects:

Want more? Go even further with our Creative Coding One course. This course introduces students to the essential foundations of computer science and basic programming with a focus on identifying how code connects to and can enhance their existing interests. Learn all about Creative Coding 1!

Happy coding and good luck with the start of the year!
 

Vidcode Earth Day Activity!

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Sunday, April 22nd is Earth Day! We have released an activity to increase students' awareness of the problem of plastic pollution, and the growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Students will create a project to help promote awareness of the Ocean's plight.

Stretch this activity the week after by creating a PSA to show how students can make a difference on a smaller scale.

Try it yourself below! And don't forget to share any projects on Twitter and tag us @vidcode!

Download Lesson Plan

<3 The Vidcode Team

Strategies to Create a Diverse Computer Science Classroom

Our goal at Vidcode is to give all students the opportunity to study programming. In order to give all students that opportunity, we must ensure we provide access to those who are underrepresented in the computer science industry. 

Women and people of color are still largely underrepresented in the computer science industry. According to a 2015 Taulbee study, only 16% of undergraduate computer science majors were women. This statistic is staggering considering that female students outnumber male students by 3 to 2 for almost every other major. In high schools, only 20% of students who take an AP computer science exam are students of color.

Job market demand for programming and engineering skills continues to outweigh supply -- so the question remains -- why are there so few women and people of color in this innovative and profitable field? 

At Vidcode, we work with schools and programs to reach students of all backgrounds and show them how computer science is behind the things they use every day. We often have schools ask us what they can do to attract more girls to computer science classes. The following tips are gleaned from organizations such as Harvey Mudd College and our research.

 

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Make things they care about

Throughout the initial research phase of Vidcode, we found that girls wanted the ability to make stuff with their friends and code things they were interested in, which is why Vidcode lets them use their media to code and customize Instagram and Snapchat filters. By keeping programming courses relevant and creative, we found that all students respond with excitement. 

 

Introductory courses should emphasize practical and creative uses for programming 

Nothing loses a student’s interest faster than when they cannot correlate what they’re learning to real-world practicality. Students lose interest quickly when they cannot connect the things they are learning to something practical in the world that they know. Making certain the curriculum is practical and creative provides reason and context to learn challenging concepts. Starting with simplified projects like Hour of Code demystifies the coding experience and demonstrates that anyone can learn programming.

 

Change the name of computer science courses

Harvey Mudd College changed the name of their mandatory introductory course to something that would peak the student’s interest: from “Introduction to programming in Java” to “Creative approaches to problem solving in science and engineering using Python.” This took them from 10% female computer-science majors to 40%.

 

Offer AP Computer Science Principles 

In the U.S., the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes are being expanded to attract more girls and underrepresented minorities. The 2016 national launch of the College Board's AP Computer Science Principles course is seen as key to this growth, since it is designed to appeal to more diverse students.

While the existing AP Computer Science course focuses on the Java programming language, the new course is a creative exploration of real-world problems. It's designed to appeal to people who might have assumed that computers were not for them. Vidcode has an AP CSP course available to help schools run successful AP CSP programs.

 

Include a track for students with no coding background and encourage team building activities

 Administrators and faculty at Harvey Mudd noticed that in-class discussions were often dominated by students, often male, who had previous programming knowledge. This typically discouraged and intimidated students who had little to no experience coding. By creating curriculum tailored to true beginners, the school was able to build stronger team environments and empower all students to participate.

 

Don’t say “guys” 

It may seem small, but gendered language matters. Call your students “programmers” instead!

 

Create a mentorship program 

Students are often more inspired by their peers a year or two older than they are to industry professionals. Encourage diverse students to mentor others and take on leadership roles in the school. This gives female and minority students visible role models, which increases confidence and relieves the pressure to be “trail blazers” for their social groups.

Making even a few of these changes in the classroom and at a broader level will help close the gender and minority gap and create a healthier, more inclusive atmosphere in the computer science industry as a whole.

We hope these tips help! If you have other strategies that have been successful, please share in the comments below.
 

The 5 Best Computer Science Activities for Middle Schools

When it comes to teaching computer science, it can be hard to find quality resources to bring to your students. The list below includes computer science activities and curriculum to engage your students from their first line of code to creating their favorite programs.

 

1. BrainPOP Creative Coding

Best computer science activities for middle school

BrainPOP is an animated, educational site for kids that was founded in 1999 by Dr. Avraham Kadar. His goal was to explain difficult concepts to his young patients. Soon after, it evolved into a trusted learning resource. Schools, districts, and home classrooms can sign up for monthly or yearly subscriptions. Afterward they can access a multitude of online classes that supports core and supplemental subjects like Science, English, Math, and Engineering & Tech.

BrainPOP offers a series of creative coding activities integrated into the topics they cover. They gear this unit toward middle schoolers by offering engaging learning games, animated movies, and activities. Their creative coding projects make use of stop motion animation, meme, doodle augmented reality, and newscast, making the subject matter fun and topical.

 

2. Code.org

Best computer science activities for middle school

Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, and a great place for students to start. Among their middle school computer curriculum lesson plans is Computer Science Discoveries. This course is appropriate for 6-10th grade students and can be taught as a semester or year long introductory course. It takes a wide lens on computer science by covering topics such as programming, physical computing, HTML/CSS, and data. Students engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. The course inspires students with interactive activities as they build their own websites, apps, games, and physical computing devices.

Their middle school computer science syllabi focus on a broad introduction to computer science topics. After making it through their introductory courses, classrooms and schools can purchase more advanced computer science curriculum and development tools.

 

3. Codesters (Python)

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Codesters combines a fun online coding platform for middle school students, a powerful learning management system for teachers, and built-out computer science lesson plans so you can start teaching kids to code right away.

With Codesters, students create their programs in Python - a text-based programming language that is widely used in making web applications. Students can drag and drop commands from a Drag-to-Text Toolkit, lowering the barrier to entry so they can get started right away. Alternatively, they can also type directly into the code editor without using the toolkit. Text in the editor is color coded to help students distinguish between variables, strings, integers, functions, etc. This is a great coding platform for middle school students; provides interactivity and lets students add sprites and animation so they can make engaging projects right away.

The Learning Management System integrated within the Coding Platform is robust enough to allow teachers to monitor student work, which is automatically graded. 

 

4. Khan Academy:


Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard so students can study in and outside of the classroom. They offer a variety of courses in math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. The middle school computer science lesson plans include everything from HTML/CSS to Javascript and algorithms.

 

5. Vidcode

Best computer science activities for middle school

Self promotion moment! Vidcode provides a pathway to competency in computer science, from a foundational creative coding course to an advanced college-level AP Computer course. Students can upload their own videos and photos and customize them with real code, not just blocks. They can create things they love, like memes, Snapchat-like effects and music videos that align to any content area. Vidcode courses a fun and creative way for middle schoolers to learn in a rigorous and fun way.

Two of Vidcode’s most popular middle school computer science courses are Creative Coding 1 and 2. With Creative Coding 1, students learn the material equivalent to a semester long intro to programming course in college and will be able to program in JavaScript. They use NO video tutorials and provide skill building written tutorials, quizzes, assessment, challenge problems and unit tests. In Creativing Coding 2, students complete projects that build on the concepts covered in Creative Coding 1 and learn about different applications of JavaScript programming including interactivity, algorithms, and data art.

Best computer science courses for middle school
 
coding for middle school students
 

Their classroom management system and teacher resources enable non-tech teachers to seamlessly facilitate the Vidcode curriculum. These lesson plans are available to single classrooms, schools, and entire school districts. The curriculum can also be customized for schools, districts, large non-profits and networks.

 

Ready to take the next step to empower the students in your district with computer science skills? Schedule a 1:1 consultation to learn more about bringing coding to your students.

What to Learn After Scratch

Schools are seeking computer science curriculum now more than ever. Learning programming in a classroom setting is not only important for students pursuing a tech-related future, but it also builds strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas on a broader level. The benefits of coding education are clear, butut how do schools and teachers decide which curriculum to utilize when teaching their students to code? Unless instructors are prepared to provide materials for their students to learn coding from scratch, finding the right online learning platform can be daunting. Luckily, there are some great learning platforms that take the guesswork out of this process.

About Scratch

Many schools introduce their students to coding with Scratch, a block-based programming language. Scratch’s fun and interactive interface sparks interest in the coding field. Due to its drag and drop programming nature, it’s best suited for beginners or younger students without a typing background. However, when students are ready to move on to a more cohesive, text-based curriculum, teachers are stuck trying to figure out what to use next..

Coding After Scratch

Larger projects made in Scratch can run slowly, and users aren’t able to use their creations on smartphones and tablet or transfer and use their projects outside of Scratch at all.  And at some point, students are going to want to write code that lives outside the world of Scratch.

So what’s next? Challenge students with a text-based programming language like JavaScript!

When to go beyond Block Coding Websites

Block coding websites act as a great introduction to coding principles. They introduce students to the creative things they can achieve with computer programming. The built-in limitation of block coding is most pronounced when students are ready to code their own projects. Rather than dragging and dropping pre-written snippets of code into a functioning program, students must learn to write their own code. But starting with an empty code editor can be overwhelming.

What to learn after scratch

When are students ready for this next step? Typically, once students can type on their own and understand core coding concepts like variables and loops, they are ready to move beyond the block interface. This doesn't mean that students have to understand these concepts to start coding, Vidcode courses are designed to be accessible for students who have never coded before.

Beyond Drag and Drop Programming

what to use after scratch

Vidcode helps to bridge this gap by allowing students to use block coding as a scaffold. Vidcode starts with coding blocks that turn into real code in the code editor. Students play around with those initial lines of code and get comfortable with JavaScript syntax before writing code on their own. Students get practice with these concepts and writing code in an accessible way. 

How is this different from Scratch?

Many teachers and administrators worry whether they are teaching their students the “right” coding concepts and struggle with how to approach such a large field. Vidcode relieves the stress of these challenges by providing full curriculums that are easy for non-technical teachers to facilitate. We offer tutorials, challenge activities and assessments packaged as "courses." These were created and tested in a process led by our Curriculum Lead, a researcher with a computer science PhD. The project tutorials are rigorous, and leave room for students to be creative as they go through the course and build out their digital portfolios.

Unlike Scratch, Vidcode teaches the fundamentals of JavaScript, a high-level programming language used to create interactive effects in web browsers. JavaScript is quickly becoming the most popular programming language in the world. While Scratch is a valuable introductory tool, it cannot be used in real-world web applications. We want to give students the ability to use their coding knowledge outside of the Vidcode curriculum. By learning with Vidcode, students are learning technical computer programming and computational thinking skills that are highly sought after in today’s job market.

Teach coding with JavaScript

JavaScript is largely considered the “language of the web.” Nearly every major website utilizes Javascript to power it’s real-time capabilities (think auto-refresh on Twitter) and many applications will not run without it. It allows users to interact with computers; in today’s technology-friendly age, that is no small thing.

We must also ask ourselves whether certain technologies and programming languages will be relevant in five or ten years. With Javascript, all signs point to “yes.” Recent trends in responsive design required the development of popular libraries like Backbone.js, Ember.js, and React - these all just happen to be Javascript frameworks. In other words, skills students learn with Vidcode today can be applied when they are ready to enter the workforce.
 

#CurrentMoodGratitute for STEAM Teacher Deanna Roberts

Deanna Roberts is always on the hunt for exciting and innovative platforms for her students. As a teacher who is well versed in technology education, Deanna knows what it takes to keep her students engaged and interested in the curriculum. After hearing of Vidcode’s Snapchat Challenge, she knew it would be the “perfect fit” for her Multimedia Productions class. In fact, the kids loved it! “The application of creating their very own Snapchat filter motivated them to want to learn more coding.”

Soon after completing the Snapchat Challenge, Deanna’s school decided to offer an Exploring Computer Science class. She knew just where to look for a learning environment. Vidcode’s Creative Coding course is the perfect solution to the challenges the school faced in incorporating this type of curriculum. The materials are up-to-date and expand on creative activities students already have an interest in (editing photos!). Furthermore, Vidcode’s compatibility across devices made integrating the curriculum easy. “Being a one-to-one school, we have a variety of devices and have had success with all!”

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Deanna uses Vidcode’s curriculum for her 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes. She first builds upon her students’ background knowledge and basic understanding of coding. Then, she “hooks” them with Vidcode’s interpreted interface. The result? Not only do her students understand and enjoy new coding concepts, they are proud of their accomplishments. As one student said, “Look Mrs. Roberts, I didn't know what coding was until I took your class but look at how good I am at it!” For Deanna, this was “music to her ears!” Vidcode’s curriculum gives students confidence and encourages them to take risks by stepping outside of their comfort zone. Deanna creates a safe, yet challenging, atmosphere by utilizing collaborative study groups so that less expressive students feel secure in sharing their successes.

Both Deanna and her students appreciate the thoughtful and constructive organization of the Vidcode curriculum. It encourages student exploration, self-pacing, collaboration and reflection, which, says Deanna, are proven strategies for academic achievement and growth. Sage, one of Deanna’s students, flourished with this type of learning structure: “"I loved how it taught you everything about anything you want to learn. I learned a lot about coding, and had fun trying out new techniques and methods. There were many parts to it, but it wasn't overwhelming, as they split each part up into units and lessons where you got to apply what you learned." Another student, Ethan, loved this introduction to programming and is expanding his knowledge outside of school: “I did Vidcode in one of my school classes and since then I have spent time coding with my brother. When I have free time in school I will code for fun and Vidcode is a great way to do that. I learned so much."

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Teachers like Deanna are instrumental in inspiring confidence in students. Through their creativity and dedication, these educators continue to empower students to pursue their passions. Thank you for your invaluable hard work!

 

Ready to learn more about bringing coding into your school? Let's chat!

My Classes Feature Announcement

We at Vidcode want to help you teach your students creative coding in a fun, accessible way. We actively listen when you express what you love and what might be frustrating about your Vidcode experience.

 

In listening to you, we noticed that the ‘Profile’ section could be redone to help you find the things that you need in a more seamless way.

Previous ‘Profile’ section

Previous ‘Profile’ section

The Vidcode team is excited to announce the launch of our new My Classes feature -- a place where your students will do coursework and you will be able to track their progress.

New ‘My Classes’ section

New ‘My Classes’ section

The Profile and Courses sections will be gone, but you will be able to do all of the same things (and more!) with the My Classes feature. Here are a some key highlights:

Things you will still be able to do, but in a more seamless way:

  • Create classes and add students

  • View progress

  • View projects

  • View assessment data

  • Go through a Course as a student

*NEW* things you will be able to do:

  • Assign specific courses to Classes (groups of students)

  • View student Projects and Progress by Unit and Activity

  • Find lesson plans faster in the Class Dashboard -- not in Courses

  • Easily print lesson plans by clicking the ‘Print’ button

The experience will also change for your students -- they will now use My Classes to engage with the coursework and track their own progress, replacing the old Courses page. As a teacher, you can see what your students see by using the links under Student View.

New Course view from the Student perspective

New Course view from the Student perspective

Here is a video tour (under 3 minutes) of the new My Classes feature:

My Classes is coming soon -- so stay tuned for updates!

Once you start using My Classes, we want to hear what you think. Respond via the Intercom bubble in the bottom right corner.

<3 the Vidcode Team

Black History Month Recap

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February is Black History Month! Throughout the year, but especially in February, we celebrate the stories of influential African Americans like Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space and only astronaut ever on Star Trek.
 
Last month, classrooms around the world tried our new tutorial to expand on the traditional oral report with the addition of coding! Students made their own visual aid, in the form of a repeating slideshow background to accompany their presentation. Check out some of our favorite projects!

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Try it yourself below! And don't forget to share any projects on Twitter and tag us @vidcode!

Download Lesson Plan

Live long and prosper.

<3 The Vidcode Team

Celebrate Women's History Month with Code

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In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month! Throughout the month, people from around the world celebrate the diverse historical and societal contributions made by women.  We also recognize the barriers broken by women and raise awareness of those yet to fall. 

Your classroom can celebrate Women’s History Month with code by creating animations featuring notable women leaders and quotes that express their point of view. Explore leadership, power and strength of conviction by repurposing the popular “deal with it” meme.

Teacher tip: This is an intermediate project, using variables, loops and conditionals. If this is the first time your students have encountered JavaScript or Vidcode, start off with the Black History Month tutorial.

We love to see what kids are making! Share your Women's History Month projects on Twitter or Facebook and be sure to tag us @vidcode.

Download Lesson Plan

<3 The Vidcode Team

Computer Science for All Summit 2017

On October 16-17, 2017, Vidcode will join the nationwide community of computer science educators, researchers, activists, and supporters at the 2017 CSforAll Summit to celebrate progress and announce new commitments to reach the goal of access to inclusive, rigorous, and sustainable computer science education for all U.S. students both in and out of school.

Commitments from more than 100 organizations will be announced. Here is Vidcode's:

Vidcode will work with partners to expand creative CS programming to over 10,000 students in Kansas, Arkansas, and South Dakota; work with Girl Scouts of New York will to expand their partnership to empower 150 additional middle school girls to learn to code; and reach 5,000 new students around the world by the end of 2018 through new suite of VR coding projects.

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The CSforAll Summit is organized by the CSforALL Consortium, a collaborative community of more than 400 partner organizations, and the national hub for the Computer Science for All movement. Details can be found at www.csforall.org.

The Vidcode team is honored to be a sponsor for the CSforALL Consortium 2017 and thrilled to continue the push to bring computer science to all students!

<3 The Vidcode Team

 

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#CurrentMoodGratitude for Ms. Karma Turner

'Can I Stay and Code?' Ask the students of Lake Hamilton

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Karma Turner

Lake Hamilton Jr. High

Pearcy, Arkansas

Karma Turner has been teaching math for 21 years. In 2015, governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, passed legislation for all schools in Arkansas to provide computer science education to all high school students—Karma stepped up to bring computer science to her school.

Karma began the search for high quality, interesting curriculum for her 8th graders in the second year of the program. Her thoughts were, "If students hate coding when they're introduced to it in 7th grade, they're not going to want to pursue it later on." She wanted to find something "interesting to kids, but not too far above their head that they would lose interest". 

She investigated many programs until she found Vidcode. "The layout of Vidcode lessons and the general attractiveness of the lessons are a real positive for me," Ms. Turner mentioned. "The final aspect that swayed my decision to go with Vidcode is the fact that Vidcode is developed and founded by a team of bright women. Their perspective on how to make coding attractive to girls and all students was a very important part of my decision. Also, the fact that students can use their own media in their projects is a big plus. With Vidcode, I'm sure I've found the program that meets my needs and wants."

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"With Vidcode, I'm sure I've found the program that meets my needs and wants"

Karma teaches two semester-long classes where she teaches an Arkansas-specific program called Coding Arkansas' Future. She also teaches a 5 week coding block to all 325 8th grade students with Vidcode. This year, her challenge was making the coding block interesting to reach all 325 students—it certainly can be hard to capture the attention of every personality in the 8th grade! Karma said, "This challenge is best met with Vidcode! I feel my successes are often and many! The fact that I'm able to expose so many students to coding in an inviting and interesting environment is a great accomplishment." She uses Vidcode in 45 minute blocks with 50 students at a time. 50 students is a large number, but she and her team teacher, Nikki Aitkin are thriving.

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I feel my successes are often and many! The fact that I'm able to expose so many students to coding in an inviting and interesting environment is a great accomplishment."

Recently, one of Karma's coding block students asked if he could stay an additional 20 minutes after class—digging not into another class, but rather, lunch! Karma encouraged him to eat lunch, but said, "He REALLY wanted to keep coding!"

The enthusiasm is infectious—another student said she felt like she felt like she was, "Really hacking something!" As we know, shifting perceptions of self is crucial for young students, so to Karma, Nikki, and the Lake Hamilton team, we are so grateful for your work! You are making a massive impact on your students and we are thrilled to continue following your story.

 

To learn more about bringing coding to your school, let's chat. Simply reach out below:

5 Vidcode Projects That Have Taught us About Science

Guest blog post by our summer intern Olivia, a rising senior at Marymount.

1). This first Vidcode project, coded by Candace Miller, teaches students about the digestive system in a fun and simple way. Great job, Candace!

2). This second Vidcode project, coded by Olivia Miller, allows viewers to see what the sun may look like in space. Since we cannot actually go to space and observe the motion of planets and of the sun, it is great to see animations of them online when studying astronomy. Great job, Olivia!

outer space coding project

3). This third Vidcode project, coded by the Earth Guys, gives us tips on how to minimize our environmental impact. Great job, Earth Guys!

climate change coding project

4). This fourth Vidcode project, coded by Vidcoder, shows us all that global warming is a serious issue which must be stopped.  If we do not take measures to prevent global warming
from happening, the earth will burn one day. Great job, Vidcoder for bringing awareness to global warming in such a clear way!

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5). This fifth Vidcode project, coded by Vidcoder, brings awareness to global warming once again. Given that there are multiple projects on global warming, maybe it is a sign that we should start doing something as soon as possible to prevent global warming from continuing! Great job on your project, Vidcoder!

global warming coding project

The Women Visionaries Who Defined the Future of Tech

Here at Vidcode, we love to see girls achieve amazing things with code. In the same spirit, we are dedicating this month to celebrating International Women’s Day and the incredible women who have disrupted the male-dominated tech world. 

What better way to honor women visionaries than by sharing fun facts about them? Without further ado, here are our top three ladies in tech:

 
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Ada Lovelace

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with computer science or tech history has heard her name. This talented 19th century mathematician is the “mother” of computer programming as we know it. Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer before computers even existed! Surprisingly enough, she was not as famous when she proposed the world’s first algorithm in her young teenage years. It wasn’t until the 1950s when her contributions to the field of computer science were recognized through a republication of her notes in Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines. This incredible lady in tech was clearly way ahead of her time.

 
 

Hedy Lamarr

This hollywood star and beauty icon was breaking all the computer geek stereotypes as early as the 1930s! Hedy Lamarr was more widely known for her career in the entertainment industry, yet not too many people know about her side gig as an inventor. Lamarr was responsible for the invention of spread spectrum technology, which is essentially the basis for modern-day Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. 

Kimberly Bryant

This woman in tech is responsible for founding Black Girls Code, a not-for-profit organization that aims at introducing girls from underrepresented communities to the world of coding. Bryant worked for many years as an electrical engineer before she decided to tackle the diversity problem that the tech industry still faces today. As a matter of fact, black women comprise only 2% of the STEM workforce in the United States. Bryant’s inspiration for founding this wonderful organization? Her daughter. In Bryant’s own words, she “wanted to find a way to engage and interest my daughter in becoming a digital creative instead of just a consumer, and I did not find other programs that were targeted to girls like her from underrepresented communities." 

As these three women in tech prove, female scientists have been crucial in the development of computer science and the technologies that we enjoy today. At Vidcode, we are more than excited to see what the next generation of powerful technologists has to offer.

What woman in tech inspires you? Let us know in the comments below!
 

We Listened—New Creative Coding Courses & Other Updates

The Vidcode team is excited to announce the release of Courses! Courses replace the current 'Create' page, and organize the Vidcode tutorials and learning content into CCSS-aligned Units for you and your students to easily follow.

These changes were based on feedback and conversations with teachers using Vidcode. Educators we spoke to asked for content that was more cohesive, scaffolded, and rigorous—while still being easy to differentiate and broken up into manageable pieces. So, we've created Courses and Units.

Old 'Create' page

Old 'Create' page

New list of courses

New list of courses

Break it down

We've organized all of Vidcode's current learning materials and built upon them to introduce Creative Coding I. This course consists of four units, each composed of tutorials, practice lessons, assessments, and a culminating project.

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The activities in each were designed to be creative and exploratory while maintaining rigor that matches the needs of individual learners to ultimately be prepared for AP Computer Science by the time they reach 11th or 12th grade. 

We've also expanded the educator resources available to you. Instead of looking under 'Resources' under your profile, you can now find these under the Units 'Educator Resources' tab. Each activity has a paired lesson plan.

 

Are all the existing tutorials still available?

Yes! The old Create page still exists, you and your students can access it with the url app.vidcode.io/projects.

If you have access to the Creative Coding I course, all of the existing tutorials have been added to the Creative Coding I course, along with new lesson plans for each. Below is a chart where you can see in which Units all of the existing tutorials can be found.

  • Make Your Own Filter -> Unit 1
  • Make a Stop Motion -> Unit 2
  • Make a Meme -> Unit 1
  • Doodle Augmented Reality -> Unit 1
  • Doodle SFX: Magic -> Unit 3
  • Famous Filters -> Unit 2
  • Music Video is gone, but similar tutorials can be found in Unit 2
  • Surprise Emoji -> Unit 2
  • Film Transition -> Unit 3
  • Animoji -> Unit 3
  • Sad Song -> Unit 3
  • Animate a Rainbow -> Unit 3
  • The News -> Unit 4
  • Doodle SFX: Lasers -> Unit 4
  • All Hour of Code and other free projects can be found under the 'Free Activities' tab
A breakdown of projects students create and concepts they learn, throughout the course.

A breakdown of projects students create and concepts they learn, throughout the course.

Still have questions?

Learn more about Creative Coding I and request a quote for your school here. We're here to support you and your classroom!

The Vidcode team is available to provide demos and review any changes with you, set up a time to meet.

Want to collaborate with other innovative computer programming educators? Receive an invitation to the Vidcode Educator Community here.

 

Happy Coding,

The Vidcode Team

Why “I Think This Could Work” Never Works

Olivia Cabello joined Vidcode as a UX Designer through the Fall 2016 SPIKE Fellowship. She's currently getting her Masters in Integrated Digital Media at NYU Poly.

Olivia wrote the following blog post reflecting on her time at Vidcode.

Before adding new features to my designs, I often catch myself thinking “This feature might be useful” or “I think the user could benefit from this”. I get really excited about this great idea I had (don’t we all think our ideas are great?) and am determined to implement it. I’ll admit it, I have been guilty of passionately defending my ideas and trying to explain why it’s the ultimate solution. It’s difficult to stop yourself when this happens. When we think of a solution that could work, it’s hard to take a step back and figure out why this works (or in many cases, why it doesn’t work). This natural state of mind can be dangerous and can harm the quality of your work. At this point, you might ask yourself: “How can I avoid making a big design mistake?”. Well, I asked myself the same question during my time working on the teacher site redesign at Vidcode, and here is what I learned:


1. Ideas are just assumptions
    and assumptions are almost never good. I mean, it’s a good start, but in the end they will remain just that: a start. While I was creating my first mockups for the new Vidcode teacher site, I had so many different ideas on what I should add to the pages. My thought process went a little bit like this: “I think it would be great if I added a student progress graph here, a teacher training link there, and maybe even a page with all the student info.” While I would personally prefer to have all this information if I were a teacher, the truth is that I will never know this for sure because I’m not really a teacher. This is when user testing and research comes in handy. Your assumptions of what features should be included in your design only become valid when you have results to back them up. If you have real evidence in the form of quantitative data that your idea is good, you instantly gain more credibility. Who would you trust more? The designer who says “I think adding a student progress graph would be cool” or the one who confidently states that “ 90% of the teachers who tested my prototype had an easier time visualizing how their students were doing in the class thanks to the new student progress graph”? Taking your assumptions to the next level through user testing and research is what makes you a reliable user experience designer.


2. Most of your time should be spent researching and testing
    I know, I know. There is usually little time for testing and research when you’re supposed to be presenting your designs in only a few weeks. However you should really make time for at least some kind of testing, even if you don’t have access to many resources. Working at a startup usually implies that you don’t have the means to recruit a large number of participants for testing sessions. However, this does not mean that you should skip this step of the process altogether. Since I wasn’t able to bring in many Vidcode clients to test my prototype, I created a “clickable survey” using my mockups instead. In this survey, I gave participants a simple task such as “Where would you click to add a new student to your class?” and they would have to answer by clicking on the corresponding area in the mockup. The survey would generate heatmaps displaying where participants were clicking in the mockups and I would then evaluate them to see whether the results match my expectations. While this method is definitely not perfect (I probably would’ve gotten more accurate results if I had watched participants navigate through an interactive prototype), I was still able to learn a lot about the way teachers were interpreting my designs. Through this very elementary remote user testing method, I was able to learn more than I would have if I had solely relied on feedback and research.
 
3. A user testing session is not equivalent to a feedback session
    This point is extremely important. Sometimes when we are talking to our users, we want to get straight to the point and ask them for their opinion on a feature we thought of. While this might be a good step when you’re brainstorming and researching, it is not good enough to call it a user test. The main issue of asking a user for feedback is that the answer you will receive is not reliable data.  Saying that your idea for a feature is good because a client said so is basically just backing up your assumption with another assumption. Truth is, sometimes users don’t know what they want. The best way to find out whether a feature would solve a usability problem is to watch the user interact with it. If I were to ask a teacher whether it would be useful for them to view all their students’ information in one page and they said yes, I would get a hypothetical answer. However if I watched the teacher completely ignore this page during a user testing session, I would get a definite answer. Long story short, actions speak louder than words.


I can’t emphasize enough the importance of integrating lots and lots of testing into your design process. In the end, being a user experience designer implies meeting the user’s needs and learning what how and for what purpose they use your application.