It would seem that 2012 is shaping up to be a year of programming hitting mainstream education in the UK, with the Raspberry Pi finally gearing up for release and Michael Gove’s recent announcement that computer science will replace the useless ICT curriculum, under which the British bedroom coding tradition of the 1980s practically withered up and died. But pleasantly surprising is that Play My Code – a project conceived initially as little more than an easy way to make browser-based games – seems to be becoming a part of this.
Today, Preston-based Computer Science teacher Alan O’Donohoe (aka @teknoteacher) absolutely made our month by releasing some recordings of his pupils’ experiences of using PMC:
The implication seems to be that children especially enjoy hacking, forking and modifying code to see what makes it tick, with the suggestion that the user is “allowed” to do this on Play My Code being particularly profound in a world which some might argue is rapidly being closed off as far as open computing is concerned. I might be so bold as to compare it to when I was young, breaking open my toys to see what was inside. (PS, we’ll be getting search in there as soon as we can guys!)
We should also mention that @teknoteacher is involved in organising Hack to the Future – a Barcamp-style event aimed at children who want to learn programming – which takes place at Our Lady’s High School in Preston on February 11th. More details here, apparently there are still limited tickets left for groups of pupils.
Meanwhile, BBC researcher @sparks_rd warmed our hearts with the following tweet: “Well, @playmycode passes the ‘can they (8 & 9 year olds) just get on and make games test’. Will be making some tutorials over xmas methinks” (link to tweet). The prospect of our site being used as a learning tool by minds so young and inquisitive is genuinely amazing, and the fact that young kids are taking to it so easily certainly reassures us that PMC is as easy to use as we intended.
Finally, the slightly more mysterious Curtos has also been using Play My Code as a teaching aid, having created a basic yet nicely-written, fully commented Pong game for his class of high schoolers. Do check it out if you’re learning the ropes, as it’s a very good example with plenty of room to take things further- fork it and see what you can do. In fact, this was used as the basis of another of @teknoteacher’s lessons:
All of this has left us wondering: what is Play My Code, and where do we take things from here? We originally intended to create a “YouTube of games” of sorts, and rather short-sightedly never even considered the possibility of it being used as an educational tool. We’ll certainly be thinking about the direction things will be taking from here on in.
One thing we do know is: if you’re reading this, are an educator and are interested in using Play My Code as part of your class, please do get in touch via Twitter, the forum or just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org- we would be both thrilled & honoured to offer any help and support we can.