TechWise Academy Instructor Assists Teen in Unity Class

About the Coding Connector

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Another school year. Another season of our classes!

We partnered with the Innovation Connector at the start of 2017 to create a consistent space to teach children. The Coding Connector provides that in the Muncie community. We couldn’t be happier with the results. Last semester was particularly amazing.

Computer science teaches so much more than just “programming computers.” It teaches problem solving and computational thinking. Education requires more out our children than when we were younger. We believe in providing children with the necessary ability to learn and adapt to the challenges in front of them.

We are quickly approaching our first session – a Minecraft Party. It’s just an opportunity for kids getting back into things to play and learn. Come on out and see what we have to offer!

See what Ted Baker has to say

View our class schedule

We hold classes that coincide with the academic year in Muncie and Delaware County.

minecraft

Minecraft Versions ?!?!?

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Indianapolis in Minecraft, Xbox One

When my son first started playing Minecraft, I was aware of only one method of doing so:  a paid app on his Kindle Fire.  Turns out, there are many versions and platforms for Minecraft.  Our students typically understand these much better than their parents, and we’ll typically hear things like “you didn’t get me the right version” or “this isn’t the right Minecraft.”

Parents:  this post is for you.  I’m going to try and simplify the best that I can the many versions and iterations of Minecraft.  And I’m going to try and do so without my son’s help.

So Many Minecrafts!

First off, you will have to pay for Minecraft — no matter which version or platform.  There is no free version of Minecraft.  Some apps have free versions but Minecraft isn’t one of them.

For consoles (Playstation 3/4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U) you can simply purchase Minecraft for that platform at the store.  There are some other adventure-type versions of Minecraft for these platforms (Minecraft Story Mode), but they don’t allow the blank canvas of creativity found in traditional Minecraft.  And, as your kids would probably say, “that’s not the right version”.

For Chromebooks you’re mostly out of luck.  There aren’t any straightforward ways of playing Minecraft on a Chromebook.

For Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire devices buy the app from the Play Store, Apple Store, or Amazon Store.  As of 6/20/17, the app costs $6.99.  This version is technically called Minecraft PE (Pocket Edition).  It does have limitations versus the other versions of Minecraft but is a great place to start for most kids.

minecraft

If you have a Mac, you can go to mojang.net and download/buy by clicking the Download button.  You will have to create an account with Mojang to manage your download.  The current price on this version is $26.95.  The download and install is fairly simple.  Since Mojang (the developer of Minecraft) is located in Sweden, you might have issues with credit card purchases online.  Or, you can elect to buy one of the Minecraft gift cards at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.  You’ll notice that they cost $26.95 and have a code that you can easily redeem on the site after creating your account.

Windows (especially Windows 10) is the trickiest.  You definitely want the Java version of Minecraft for Windows.  This is the version that allows your kids to create modifications using the Java programming language.  The Windows 10 app (non-Java version) is not quite as robust as the Java version.  And, as we found out at our last Minecraft party, the Windows 10 app doesn’t work when connecting to our servers.

Getting Started

Our recommendation for those starting out is to buy the app for a tablet or console.  This is simply because the controls are much easier to manage for younger kids.  Once they’ve mastered that version, download the Java version for PC or Mac.  Also, buy a mouse to make this one easier to use.  This version gives the most flexibility and allows them to modify Minecraft via programming the most.  (It’s also the version that we use in all of our classes & parties)

Hope this helps.  Feel free to reach out to us on the Contact Page if you have any questions.  Believe me; as parents, we’ve been there as well 🙂

Two teens studying Unity in TechWise Academy class

End of Spring 2017 Semester Review

Two teens studying Unity in TechWise Academy class

Whew … it’s been a busy semester!  We finally have a few weeks to catch our breath and reflect on the work that was accomplished.

Community Impact

This past semester was our first one as an official partner with the Innovation Connector and the Coding Connector initiative.  We are thankful for such great partners who share our vision for promoting coding education in ECI.  The facility and equipment at the Coding Connector are second to none in our area.

Between our courses at the Coding Connector and other events in the community, we served 188 students in East Central Indiana this spring! These students came from 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, several home schools, and one preschool. We were also able to extend our reach by providing professional development for over 30 Muncie Community Schools educators and four employees of the Muncie Public Library.

Why Computer Science is so Important

We know not every one of our students will be computer programmers. The skills that we’re teaching have far-reaching implications regardless of career path or industry.

We hope that we’re providing a place for students to learn, have fun, and a safe place for them to fail and try new things.

TechWise Goes Back to School

October 7th marked another big day for TechWise:  we went back to school.  I was able to teach three different 4th grade classes the Hour of Code that we teach in our Level 1 Courses.  The day was an absolute blast for me and it seemed like the kids had a great time as well.

Some of the great quotes that I heard during the day:

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“Did you create YouTube?”
A student asked me when I described computer programming and my role as a software engineer.  Sadly, no.

“That was awesome.  I beat it!”
This comment repeats itself over and over during our courses and is the primary reason I enjoy these courses so much.  When I was first learning Computer Science in college it took me a while to understand the concepts.  The teacher was good; however, the syntax of the language itself distracted me from the logical problem solving behind the scenes.  Then one day it clicked for me.  I suddenly understood completely what I was doing — to the point that my teacher thought I copied my next assignment from the internet.  The Hour of Code introduces those logical concepts without the confusing syntax.  I’m able to see on their faces that “aha” moment that I didn’t have until freshman year of college.

“This is making my brain hurt but I’m having fun.”
How many times have you said that about something you’re doing?  “Good,”  I told the student.  “That means you’re using critical thinking.”  The fact that he was also having fun will make him want to continue learning these concepts.

“Some of my low-level readers picked right up on it.”
My 4th grade host teacher told me this after our first session.  Wow.  What a humbling experience to provide this sense of accomplishment to students who have had academic difficulties.  We want to be able to show students that coding is within reach as a profession.  Some introductory college computer science courses try to “weed out” students.  Our approach is the opposite:  we don’t want students to be afraid of coding or think it’s too hard, we want them to be excited about it and desire to learn more.

If your school is interested in hosting a session (or multiple sessions) for students, please Contact Us.  We will do everything we can to make it happen!

TechWise Academy. First Class.

Seeing is Believing. Muncie Kids Start Coding!

TechWise Academy. First Class.

TechWise Academy: First Class

September 26 marked a big day for us. We held our first class, Level 1 – Introduction to Programming, for 9-13 year olds. Most of the kids who attended came from 3rd and 4th grade with a few older joining us. We handed out shirts and got started with the Hour of Code* program.

My partner, Ryan instructed the course and walked the kids through basic principles in programming. We really stressed breaking down problems and situations into smaller pieces and encourages logical thinking. To hear the kids talk to each other and say, “This is cool” really is what encourages me about teaching them to learn code.

Learning Mixed with Fun

Brandon participating in game during break

Ryan didn’t warn me I’d be asked to demonstrate this.

We plan for three hours in our courses. We want to give each child a chance to keep up and learn what’s being taught. But that’s a long time to sit through a class. Halfway through the class we provided snacks and some light-hearted games from Minute to Win It. We challenged the kids to stack cups and try to get an Oreo cookie from their foreheads to their mouths. I tried it. It’s really hard!

Amazingly, one of the kids pulled it off.

It was a great break before we went into the Scratch* portion of our program.

Cats Meowing Everywhere

We created a simple game using Scratch and provided a walkthrough to build it. The premise was simple, have the cat reach the ball, count a point, and then move the ball. Repeat.

We added some noise to the game, and the go-to noise was a cat meow. Suddenly we were barraged with cats meowing every time a mouse button was clicked. Controlled chaos made it fun.

The best part was when the kids realized they could record their own sounds, make different “costumes” for the cat, or add to the game. The final 25 minutes of class was allowing all of the children to add to their games and share with us. It was amazing! Some kids had their own sound effects. Some changed the cat to unicorns or other animals. One in particular created a moving bat that was an obstacle for the cat.  If the cat got hit by the bat, you had to start over.

Overall we were impressed! We cannot wait to have our next course. Find out more about our next courses and register when available.

Thank You

Thank you to the parents who signed up for the first class, and thank you to those who stuck around to learn what we’re all about. We’ve received some great feedback and are ready for the next class. Here we go.

* Many of the programs we use for the curriculum are free to use and allow accounts to be created. It’s a great way to continue to feed your child’s interest when not in class!

Where Should My Child Start?

We get asked that question all the time.  And honestly, that’s why our courses resonate with parents.  You have a child who is extremely familiar with technology but you don’t know where to start or how to help guide them.  Here are some of the tools that we use in our introductory courses at TechWise.  All of these tools are free and available via any modern web browser (most will work on tablets as well).

Hour of Code – https://code.org/learn

This is the very first place your child should start.  The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching students globally to teach them how to code.  This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial that engages students right away.  Your child will learn the basic building blocks of programming and will see introductory videos from Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.  Once you finish the initial Hour of Code program there are tons of other tutorials throughout the site.  Flappy Bird is typically a crowd favorite.

Scratch – https://scratch.mit.edu

Once your child masters the basics in the Hour of Code, the next step is to engage them with Scratch.  You should create an account with Scratch so that all of your work can be saved.  There are tutorials that can help you get started but children typically take right off with this tool.  Your child can create games with movement, characters, and backgrounds and are truly only limited by their imagination.  The great thing about Scratch is that you can also view thousands of games that have been submitted by others online (as well as the code that allows the game to work).

Thimble – https://thimble.webmaker.org/

Thimble allows children to edit html (or the code behind web pages) and see the results real-time.  There are self-directed tutorials again that will introduce students to concepts such as CSS, editing HTML, and creating interactive web elements with javascript.

 

There are tons of other tools available and most can be found very easily with a Google Search.  The big thing is to not be intimidated by the various languages and “tech talk”.  Typically your child will pick up on this much quicker than you expect.

Our first introductory course is coming up on September 26th.  You’re encouraged to join your child and watch their creativity at work!

 

Why TechWise?

It started out with a text to my good friend, Brandon, asking if he knew any place in Muncie with beginner programming courses for children.  My oldest son is starting to show interest in robotics and I thought it would be something fun to do with him.  Turns out that Brandon had the same question for me (and for the same reasons).  We weren’t completely satisfied with the offerings in ECI and decided to create something on our own.

Here are some reasons why your child should learn coding with TechWise:

1) Coding is fun

Within the right framework every kid can learn basic programming skills.  Technology is second nature to my son’s generation.  We want to take that natural exposure and curiosity to cultivate problem-solving abilities and give them a skill that will serve them well in the future.  In order to do that, children must have fun.  The software and curriculum that we use makes learning fun.

2) The marketplace has a huge demand for programmers

Some version of programming (web developer, software engineer, computer programmer) is always in the top 10 most demanded jobs in America.  Companies typically have a hard time finding quality programmers and are willing to pay well.

3) I’ve taught similar material to children and it’s awesome

Children are naturally creative and come up with clever solutions to problems.  They also pick up the material very quickly because they enjoy it.  I really enjoy having a ‘creative time’ at the end of each session.  This allows them free reigns to create anything they want (with guidance and help from the instructors, of course).  They are super proud of the work they’ve accomplished.  As a father of three kids, I want my children to learn about programming and to be able to solve problems with technology — TechWise Academy is a way to help with that.