Book Giveaway – Thanksgiving Edition

The first major break of the holidays is upon us, and I’m in the mood to do some giveaways. Over the last 18 months, I’ve contributed (along with the likes of Steve Kelly, Kristin Daniels, Crystal Kirch, and more) to some fantastic books and I’ve got some extra copies that need to be read. For this round, I’m giving away…

Are We Already in a Tech Dystopia?

Featured image creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Wonderlane I apologize for the click-baity title, but I think it helps get to the root of some emerging issues in the tech and education landscapes. I’ve got four problems briefly outlined with proposed solutions beneath. As always, comments are welcome. Problem 1 – Closed Content Schools nationwide…

Protein Permutations

Proteins are some of the most varied, complex, and mind-bending models studied in biology. Built from our genetic code, proteins have multiple levels of organization which can be modeled independently and corporately to learn about their functions based on their structures. Because of this complexity, proteins offer great fodder for the biology classroom and helps tie molecular genetics (DNA, RNA)…

Update Your Feeds

You may have noticed that the URL for this blog has changed. It should be updating your RSS feed and URL automatically when you visit, but just in case, the new URL is http://blog.ohheybrian.com. It’s part of a larger shift I’m making. Links should still work fine to old posts, but in case you find a broken one, either leave…

Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice

I read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture when I was in college. In it, Randy talks about developing Alice and how it impacted his career and his views on teaching computer science to kids. At the time, I remembered thinking, “I should download and try it out.” But, I never did.

Fast forward seven years. I’ve spent the last two weeks playing in Alice, and I have to say, given my experience with Scratch, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic.

Spoiler alert: I liked Alice much, much better. I’ll continue after the video.

I said this in the video more than once, but I loved the editor. The staging area was great to set up camera angles and think through character movements before getting into the code. It really helped with my sequencing and thinking through algorithms I wanted to implement.

As with any piece of new software, I debugged a lot. I had to get used to the language the editor used as well as get used to the differences between “moveTo” and “moveToward.” They’re subtle, but important. But, what was nice about Alice is that it didn’t seem too complicated, no matter what I played with. The procedures and their layering in the methods window were intuitive and I had a good time playing with different settings to get the effect I wanted.

Alice and Scratch are very similar…the main difference being Alice uses a 3D environment and Scratch is 2D. That being said, I think I would tend to lean toward Alice as a first-exposure program for students because of the immersive environment and the ease of editing. You can step through staging into the programming, rather than diving into the programming and thinking about staging later. I also think seeing all of the available procedures for each object in the code editor is a huge stress reducer because it saves me clicks later.

New Adventures

I lost my job on Friday. It sucks, but life moves on. I’ve started applying for schools, but it isn’t really a good hiring time right now. So, in the meantime, I’m speaking and doing some freelance web design. If you are looking for someone to lead a PD day at your school, please contact me through my homepage for…

Where’s My Muse?

This piece of the series is aptly placed after our interviews with creative people. It’s a good reminder that everyone can be creative, not just the “elect.” Creative work isn’t because of a gene or some aptitude for doing interesting things. It comes out of hard, hard work. Writing a song was an interesting lens, because most musicians have hours…