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.

 free coding tutorials

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
 
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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!

 global warming computational thinking


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.

Hour of Code: 5 Tips and Tricks

Hour of Code is approaching! 

Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week (the 2016 Computer Science Education Week is December 5-11). 

It's a week to build and learn with code - anyone can do it. CS Education Week is meant to provide a time for schools, teachers, and communities to set aside a small amount of time dedicated to exposing students of all backgrounds to the world of CS opportunities.

Join the movement and introduce a group of students to their first hour of computer science with these five tips and tricks!

 

1. Offer your students tutorials that fit their interests

It's no secret that students want to build things they love. Since your students have different interests, offer them different tutorials!

 
 

Vidcode has fun new activities for students with diverse interests, ages, and experience levels. These tutorials are created to be self-guided for students, and require minimal prep time for teachers.

  • Code the News teaches students how to create the effects they see on news shows on tv.
  • Bestie Greeting Card lets students create a card or invitation using code and graphics inspired by Girl Scouts.
  • Climate Science and Code works best in a Science classroom, and encourages students to research and record a video about a climate fact, and add effects and graphics using code.
  • Code.org has many more activities, including games and art projects, for your students to find something they love!
 Projects created for Hour of Code 2016

Projects created for Hour of Code 2016

All Vidcode tutorials cover basic computer science concepts, such as sequencing, creating and assigning variables, repetition with loops, and conditional logic, and follow the principles:

  • Easy enough for beginners to access
  • Ramps up slowly
  • Spiral design
  • Promotes “deep learning”
  • Promotes positive identity, role models
  • Math should be prominent, but not annoying.

Look through all of this year's Hour of Code activities on Code.org, and filter by grade and subject area to find the perfect tutorials for your students. With all these choices, students can be introduced to computer science in a way that's engaging to them!

 

2. Take advantage of Teacher Resources

 
 Conditionals activity for Hour of Code

Conditionals activity for Hour of Code

 

All Vidcode Hour of Code activities can be accessed at www.vidcode.io/hour-of-code. Under each tutorial, you'll find Teacher Resources filled with lesson plans, common core standards, other resources and inspiration.

We've released two new lesson plans for Code the News, our newest Hour of Code.  One introduces students to programming as creative and fun, the second is focused on really understanding conditionals (telling a computer what to do if something happens).

 

3. Unplug!

Not all computer science activities require a computer! This year, Vidcode has two Unplugged Activities for Math and Art classes, that could work in any classroom.

 
 

Looking for more? Select 'No computers or devices' under Classroom technology on Code.org to see more tutorials that introduce computer science to students without putting them in front of a screen.

 

4. See your students' work

To see all your students' work in one place, make an account and add your students to your classroom.

Press 'Create a New Class' and then invite students to join with the URL that gets generated.

From this dashboard, you'll be able to see your students' progress. And if you click on the class name, you can see all their completed Hour of Code projects in one place!

To see more Hour of Code projects and get inspired, visit the Gallery!

 

5. Keep going after Hour of Code

 
 

After the Hour of Code, select some creative, funny, or generally awesome projects and easily share them online, with parents, other educators, and on social media. Make sure to tag us at @vidcode and #HourofCode. We love seeing what students create with Vidcode!

And remember, learning to code doesn't have to end just because Hour of Code is over! Vidcode has a full year of curriculum that makes it easy to keep teaching computer science in your classroom.

Request a quote for your school to keep coding creative projects all year!

 

Good luck running the best Hour of Code ever!

Accessibility in Computer Science Education

Adding to the easy-to-use interface, users need only drag and drop their ideas and concepts into the video editor to see their creativity and newly-learned tech skills in action.  Aside from making once-painstakingly difficult concepts simple to understand for a younger demographic, Vidcode’s abilities are further demonstrated by its usage in a special needs educational base.  


“We had tried to offer coding to our students in a few different ways in the past,” said Cristina Ulerio, Program Manager for Tech Kids Unlimited, “but this was the very first time that we used a coding program that also integrated video and was very visual – which is an excellent element for special needs education.  That truly made Vidcode stand out.”

Tech Kids Unlimited is a not-for-profit technology-based educational organization for children ages 7 to 19 with special needs.  Within that spectrum, children with Autism and other interrelated learning and emotional disabilities are given creative outlets for learning new technologies and communication tools.   


“Our students are very visual learners, so while we have taught regular coding in the past, we found that it can be difficult for them,” Ulerio continued.  “It’s like learning a new language.  So, the visual aspect of Vidcode intrigued us immediately.  Also, the idea that it integrated video editing, along with coding, was a major plus.  It was truly unique and helped our students learn both of those skills simultaneously.  The students loved it, especially the fact that they were able to use their own photos and videos as part of Vidcode’s customization in the creative process.  It was a perfect fit.”  

 

Teaching Students to Code at the 92Y

Starting in the summer of 2015 and continuing through 2016-17, New York’s 92nd Street Y teamed with Vidcode to introduce the educational tool to local children with a passion for technology as part of their workshop program.  While aimed at younger students, many adult teachers were quickly grateful for the fun lessons that they, too, are able to take part in.

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“Personally, I am always looking for ways to use technology creatively,” said Kelly Saxton, an educator who oversaw the Vidcode classes.  “Any time you give students a voice, or an opportunity for self-expression, the learning outcome is incredible.  If, for example, you enable a student to learn through creating something from their own mind, they will retain that information easier and stronger.  It immediately becomes more real, eliminating the drudgery and replacing it with creativity – and I love that.  With Vidcode, that esthetic was at work, and I think that the kids gravitated towards learning [the coding programs] because of it.”

   
The Vidcode summer intensive workshop launched less one year after Vidcode became available.  Educators associated with the camp were immediately drawn to the app’s functions and quickly joined forces to meet their own initiatives: teaching Javascript, “the "language of the web," through creative video projects.  Located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of New York City, the week-long intensive was comprised of five core lessons – and was successful enough that the organizers again teamed with Vidcode the following year.

“The 92Y already offered other creative programs, such as comic art and sculpture,” Saxton continued.  “But Vidcode offered something unlike we had ever had before. I had been teaching digital media for some time and was excited to try their ‘pre-existing framework,’” which you could then turn into anything you’d like, for myself. The students immediately loved the Vidcode modules which showed how animation works, and proved to be an amazing introduction for the kids to learn code.”

Vidcode’s learning curve is primarily based on teaching Javascript in a fun, game-like way.  The app’s state-of-the-art interface teaches the Javascript coding language through lessons built around creative art projects.  Once viewed as a sophisticated and difficult tech language to comprehend, Javascript is instantly demystified by Vidcode’s unique program initiatives – creating video filters, JavaScript libraries, and HTML5 to control how each user’s video will look.  

By playfully creating music videos, short animation clips, and movie special effects, kids and adults alike instantly pick up the skills needed to learn sophisticated coding practices. All of the young students who participated in the workshops stated that their favorite elements of Vidcode’s the user-friendly modules included movie-making, stop-motion animation, and the opportunity to instantly view their final projects in the app’s interface.  

photo 4.JPG


Thanks to the program, all of the students walked away from the experience, eager to learn more advanced techniques in coding and application creation.  


“The kids were able to understand pretty sophisticated concepts immediately,” Saxton added.  “Normally, it would take a little while for anyone to learn the syntax and more-advanced technology of coding and animation, but with Vidcode, they were hands-on and able to create things within in minutes.  I thought that it could even be an amazing learning tool for adults, as well.”


As an education tool, the young students – all of whom were novices in the world of coding and digital creation – quickly learned such necessities as variables, arrays, and various application functions, while retaining the advanced information due to Vidcode’s almost video-game like appeal.  

Computer Science for All White House Summit

This Wednesday, September 14th, Vidcode is thrilled to attend the Computer Science for All Summit hosted by the White House in Washington DC. Vidcode will be included in a set of commitments announced by the White House to expand computer science nationwide.

 

 
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On Wednesday, September 14, as part of Back to School Week, the White House will host a summit on Computer Science for All. The event will mark progress on expanding computer science (CS) education since the President’s call to action in his State of the Union eight months ago, and celebrate new commitments in support of the effort.
 
The case for giving all students access to CS is straightforward. Nine in ten parents want CS taught at their child’s school and yet, by some estimates, only a quarter of K-12 schools offer a CS course with programming included. However, the need for such skills across industries continues to rapidly grow, with 51 percent of all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs projected to be in CS-related field by 2018.

Vidcode has been instrumental in bringing computer science to schools across the country. In New York City, where Vidcode was started, Vidcode has been a key component of the citywide Computer Science for All initiative.

"We're excited to be part of the national movement to bring CS to every student, and are looking forward to the conversations and challenges to come." says Allie, CEO of Vidcode.

Make a Pokemon Augmented Reality Game

The Pokemon Augmented Reality Game Builder is live! Anyone can create a game and watch their friends and family try to beat the high score. Even if you've never built a game before, the tutorial will walk you through it step by step.

 
 

Once you're done, share your project and visit the Gallery to get inspired by the games other creators have built!