Books · Coding · Computer Science · Emerging Trends · Play · STEM · Teaching

Code For Teens

Title: Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner’s Guide to Programming Volume 1: Javascript

Code For Teens: The Awesome Beginner's Guide to Programming Volume 1: Javascript
English | 3 July 2018 | ISBN: 1684019605 | 232 Pages

Love computers? What about video games and social media? Ever been curious about how they work? If so, Code for Teens is for you! Software developer Jeremy Mortiz’s Code for Teens is your one-stop-shop to learning all there is know about Javascript, the most commonly used coding language in the world! Filled with tips, tricks, strategies, and quizzes, this guide is the perfect way to take you from beginner to expert in all things Java.

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Books · Math · Play · Science · STEM · Teaching

Science Squad

Title: Science Squad

Science Squad
2018 | ISBN: 0241301858 | English | 80 pages

The zany characters of the Science Squad will guide kids ages 5-7 through this engaging, fact-packed book from Robert Winston all about the key STEAM subjects: science, technology, engineering, art, and maths. This bright and cheery illustrated book for kids ages 5-7 breaks down STEAM subjects, like science and technology, into fun and easily understandable chunks. Join Robert Winston and the Science Squad to unravel the mysteries of the world: find out how robots work, what a food chain is, where lightning comes from, how lungs allow you to breathe, and much more. The Science Squad characters (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths) guide the reader through the book and are always on hand with tips, fun facts, and simple explanations. With pages covering living things, the human body, space, physics, geography, math, engineering, and chemistry, this book is a perfect introduction for kids starting to learn about science at school, or those who are just developing an interest in how the world works.

Books · Emerging Trends · Play

Playful Disruption of Digital Media

Title: Playful Disruption of Digital Media

English | 2018 | 318 Pages | ISBN : 9811018898 Playful Disruption of Digital Media

This book starts with the proposition that digital media invite play and indeed need to be played by their everyday users. Play is probably one of the most visible and powerful ways to appropriate the digital world. The diverse, emerging practices of digital media appear to be essentially playful: Users are involved and active, produce form and content, spread, exchange and consume it, take risks, are conscious of their own goals and the possibilities of achieving them, are skilled and know how to acquire more skills. They share a perspective of can-do, a curiosity of what happens next? Play can be observed in social, economic, political, artistic, educational and criminal contexts and endeavours. It is employed as a (counter) strategy, for tacit or open resistance, as a method and productive practice, and something people do for fun.
The book aims to define a particular contemporary attitude, a playful approach to media. It identifies some common ground and key principles in this novel terrain. Instead of looking at play and how it branches into different disciplines like business and education, the phenomenon of play in digital media is approached unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries. The contributions in this book provide a glimpse of a playful technological revolution that is a joyful celebration of possibilities that new media afford. This book is not a practical guide on how to hack a system or to pirate music, but provides critical insights into the unintended, artistic, fun, subversive, and sometimes dodgy applications of digital media.
Contributions from Chris Crawford, Mathias Fuchs, Rilla Khaled, Sybille Lammes, Eva and Franco Mattes, Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller, Michael Nitsche, Julian Oliver, and others cover and address topics such as reflective game design, identity and people’s engagement in online media, conflicts and challenging opportunities for play, playing with cartographical interfaces, player-emergent production practices, the re-purposing of data, game creation as an educational approach, the ludification of society, the creation of meaning within and without play, the internalisation and subversion of roles through play, and the boundaries of play.

Books · PBL · Play

UNBORED Games

Title: UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

Author: Elizabeth Foy Larsen, Joshua Glenn
2014 | ISBN: 162040706X | English | 176 pages

UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone
UNBORED Games has all the smarts, creativity, and DIY spirit of the original UNBORED (“It’s a book! It’s a guide! It’s a way of life!” -Los Angeles Magazine), but with a laser-like focus on the activities we do for pure fun: to while away a rainy day, to test our skills and stretch our imaginations-games. There are more than seventy games here, 50 of them all new, plus many more recommendations, and they cover the full gambit, from old-fashioned favorites to today’s high-tech games. The book offers a gold mine of creative, constructive fun: intricate clapping games, bike rodeo, Google Earth challenges, croquet golf, capture the flag, and the best ever apps to play with Grandma, to name only a handful. Gaming is a whole culture for kids to explore, and the book will be complete with gaming history and interviews with awesome game designers. The lessons here: all games can be self-customized, or hacked. You can even make up your own games. Some could even change the world.

The original UNBORED has taken its place as a much beloved, distinctly contemporary family brand. UNBORED Games extends the franchise — to be followed by UNBORED Adventure — in a new handy flexibound format, illustrated in full color throughout. Soon, there will be a whole shelf of serious fun the whole family can enjoy indoors, outdoors, online and offline.

UNBORED Adventure: 70 Seriously Fun Activities for Kids and Their FamiliesTitle: UNBORED Adventure: 70 Seriously Fun Activities for Kids and Their Families
Authors: Joshua Glenn, Elizabeth Foy Larsen
English | 2015 | ISBN: 1632860961 | 176 pages

UNBORED Adventure has all the smarts, innovation, and free-wheeling spirit of the original UNBORED and its 2014 spinoff, UNBORED Games, but with a fresh focus on encouraging kids to break out of their techno-passivity and explore the world around them–whether that’s a backyard, a downtown, or a forest. Combining old-fashioned favorites with today’s high-tech possibilities, the book offers a goldmine of creative, constructive activities that kids can do on their own or with their families. From camouflage techniques, survival skills, and cloudspotting advice to instructions on how to build an upcycled kite or raft, to using apps to navigate and explore, it’s all here–along with comics that dive into the secret history of everything from bicycling to women explorers. A fun corrective to our over-anxious parenting culture, UNBORED Adventure encourages kids to become more independent and resilient, to solve problems and ask questions, and to engage with both their community and natural environment.

Gamification · Organizations · Play · Serious Games

Why Games Are Good For Business

Title: Why Games Are Good For Business

Author: Helen Routledge

2016 | ISBN: 1137448962 | English | 215 pages

Why Games Are Good For Business: How to Leverage the Power of Serious Games, Gamification and Simulations. By tapping into the same psychology that keeps gamers glued to Minecraft or World of Warcraft, innovative organizations are creating their own engaging
and flexible learning experiences. They’re called Serious Games. This is a practical toolkit for those who want to learn about more serious games and how to apply them in the workplace.
Books · Emerging Trends · Gamification · Play · Serious Games · Springer · Uncategorized

Serious Games and Edutainment Applications

Title: Serious Games and Edutainment Applications Volume II

Authors: Ma, Minhua, Oikonomou, Andreas
2017 | ISBN: 978-3-319-51645-5 | Publisher: Springer International Publishing | English | 702 pages

Springer: Serious Games and Edutainment Applications Volume II
With the continued application of gaming for training and education, which has seen exponential growth over the past two decades, this book offers an insightful introduction to the current developments and applications of game technologies within educational settings, with cutting-edge academic research and industry insights, providing a greater understanding into current and future developments and advances within this field.
Following on from the success of the first volume in 2011, researchers from around the world presents up-to-date research on a broad range of new and emerging topics such as serious games and emotion, games for music education and games for medical training, to gamification, bespoke serious games, and adaptation of commercial off-the shelf games for education and narrative design, giving readers a thorough understanding of the advances and current issues facing developers and designers regarding games for training and education.
This second volume of Serious Games and Edutainment Applications offers further insights for researchers, designers and educators who are interested in using serious games for training and educational purposes, and gives game developers with detailed information on current topics and developments within this growing area.

Title: Serious Games and Edutainment Applications Volume I

Serious Games and Edutainment Applications

Author: Minua Ma,  Andreas Oikonomou

English | December 9th, 2011 | ASIN: B007EMISMO, ISBN: 1447121600, 1447158113 | 504 pages


The recent re-emergence of serious games as a branch of video games and as a promising frontier of education has introduced the concept of games designed for a serious purpose other than pure entertainment. To date the major applications of serious games include education and training, engineering, medicine and healthcare, military applications, city planning, production, crisis response, to name just a few. If utilised alongside, or combined with conventional training and educational approaches, serious games could provide a more powerful means of knowledge transfer in almost every application domain.

The book offers an insightful introduction to the development and applications of games technologies in educational settings. It includes cutting-edge academic research and industry updates that will inform readers of current and future advances in the area.

The book is suitable for both researchers and educators who are interested in using games for educational purposes, as well as game professionals requiring a thorough understanding of issues involved in the application of video games technology into educational settings. It is also applicable to programmers, game artists, and management contemplating or involved in the development of serious games for educational or training purposes.
Books · Educational Philosophy · Gamification · Play · Teaching

Technologies of Inclusive Well-Being

Title: Technologies of Inclusive Well-Being: Serious Games, Alternative Realities, and Play Therapy

Authors: Anthony Lewis Brooks, Sheryl Brahnam, Lakhmi C. Jain
2014 | 365 Pages | ISBN: 3642454313

 

Technologies of Inclusive Well-Being: Serious Games, Alternative Realities, and Play Therapy (Repost)

This book is the first single volume that brings together the topics of serious games, alternative realities, and play therapy. The focus is on the use of digital media for the therapeutic benefit and well-being of a wide range of people spanning those with special needs to the elderly to entire urban neighborhoods. This book brings together these topics to demonstrate the increasing trans/inter/multi-disciplinary initiatives apparent today in science, medicine, and academic research interdisciplinary initiative that are already profoundly impacting society.

Books · Coding · Educational Philosophy · Emerging Trends · Gamification · Play · STEM · Teaching

Getting Started with Lego Robotics

Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 EducatorsTitle: Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 Educators

Author: Mark Gura
English | June 1st, 2011 | ASIN: B0069VWWPK, ISBN: 1564842983 | 281 pages

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a golden ticket to STEM education? Something that incorporated science, technology, math, and the most elusive of all, engineering? What if it could be applied as part of a lesson, as a class on its own, or as an after-school club? Sound too good to be true? It’s not. The golden ticket is robotics. It’s hard to find a better way to teach STEM education.

And the best part is it’s hands on, multidisciplinary, collaborative, an authentic learning experience, and engaging! LEGO Robotics has exploded in popularity, but despite the obvious benefits, many educators are hesitant to begin a program in their school because it seems challenging. Mark Gura has written this book to encourage you to give robotics a try.

Although starting a robotics program may seem like a daunting task, Gura brings together the information you need and presents it in a manageable, organized way so that you learn what LEGO Robotics is, what student activities look like, how to begin, how to manage a class, how robotics relate to standards, and much more. Gura concludes with more than a dozen interviews with educators, trainers, and even a student, so you can receive first-hand advice and recommendations. After reading this book you will be on your way to introducing your students to LEGO Robotics activities and competitions!

Features: A comprehensive introduction to LEGO Robotics, from a description of the materials to advice on classroom setup and curricular integration; recommendations for implementing LEGO Robotics—as a FIRST LEGO League team, an extracurricular club, or a class; an appendix with more than 100 resources including links to materials, information on getting started, videos, and more.

Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks : A Practical Guide

Title: Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks : A Practical Guide

Author: Dawn Ralph and Jacqui Rochester

English | 2016 | ISBN: 1785920618 | 153 Pages

Building Language using LEGO® Bricks is a flexible and powerful intervention tool designed to aid children with severe receptive and expressive language disorders, often related to autism and other special educational needs.

This practical manual equips you for setting up and adapting your own successful sessions. Downloadable resources enable you to chart progress in the following key areas:
– The use of receptive and expressive language
– The use and understanding of challenging concepts
– Joint attention LEGO and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick
– Social communication
Help children with complex needs to communicate with this unique tool, derived from the highly effective LEGO®-Based Therapy.

Title: LEGO and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick byBrick

Author:  Roy T. Cook, Sondra Bacharach
English | June 15th, 2017 | ASIN: B072Y8K2C7, ISBN: 1119193974 | 207 Pages

How profound is a little plastic building block? It turns out the answer is “very”! 22 chapters explore philosophy through the world of LEGO which encompasses the iconic brick itself as well as the animated televisions shows, feature films, a vibrant adult fan base with over a dozen yearly conventions, an educational robotics program, an award winning series of videogames, hundreds of books, magazines, and comics, a team-building workshop program for businesses and much, much more.

    • • Dives into the many philosophical ideas raised by LEGO bricks and the global multimedia phenomenon they have created
    • • Tackles metaphysical, logical, moral, and conceptual issues in a series of fascinating and stimulating essays
    • • Introduces key areas of philosophy through topics such as creativity and play, conformity and autonomy, consumption and culture, authenticity and identity, architecture, mathematics, intellectual property, business and environmental ethics
    • • Written by a global group of esteemed philosophers and LEGO fans
    • A lively philosophical discussion of bricks, minifigures, and the LEGO world that will appeal to LEGO fans and armchair philosophers alike.

About the Authors
Roy T. Cook is CLA Scholar of the College and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Resident Fellow at the Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science. He is the author of Paradoxes (Polity, 2013) and The Yablo Paradox (2014), the editor of The Arché Papers on the Mathematics of Abstraction (2007), and co-editor of The Art of Comics: A Philosophical Approach (Wiley Blackwell, 2012) and The Routledge Companion to Comics (2016). No matter how much LEGO he buys, he never seems to have enough headlight bricks.

Sondra Bacharach is Senior Lecturer in the philosophy department at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She works in philosophy of art and philosophy for children. She is co-editor of Collaborating Now: Art in the Twenty-first Century (2016) and is the former co-editor of the American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter. When she’s not doing philosophy, she can be found building Classic Spaceships (Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!) with her kids’ big box of LEGO.

Books · Emerging Trends · Gamification · Mobile · Play

Families at Play

 Title: Families at Play: Connecting and Learning through Video Games

Author: Sinem Siyahhan,‎ Elisabeth Gee
English | January 26th, 2018 | ASIN: B079JG9JWB, ISBN: 0262037467 | 216 pages

Families at Play: Connecting and Learning through Video Games

This is part of the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning
Video games have a bad reputation in the mainstream media. They are blamed for encouraging social isolation, promoting violence, and creating tensions between parents and children. In this book, Sinem Siyahhan and Elisabeth Gee offer another view. They show that video games can be a tool for connection, not isolation, creating opportunities for families to communicate and learn together.
Books · Coding · Gamification · Play · Teaching

Programming for the Puzzled

Title: Programming for the Puzzled

Author: Srini Devadas
English | ISBN: 0262534304 | 2017 | 272 pages
Programming for the Puzzled: Learn to Program While Solving Puzzles

Learning programming with one of “the coolest applications around”: algorithmic puzzles ranging from scheduling selfie time to verifying the six degrees of separation hypothesis.

This book builds a bridge between the recreational world of algorithmic puzzles (puzzles that can be solved by algorithms) and the pragmatic world of computer programming, teaching readers to program while solving puzzles. Few introductory students want to program for programming’s sake. Puzzles are real-world applications that are attention grabbing, intriguing, and easy to describe.

Each lesson starts with the description of a puzzle. After a failed attempt or two at solving the puzzle, the reader arrives at an Aha! moment – a search strategy, data structure, or mathematical fact – and the solution presents itself. The solution to the puzzle becomes the specification of the code to be written. Readers will thus know what the code is supposed to do before seeing the code itself. This represents a pedagogical philosophy that decouples understanding the functionality of the code from understanding programming language syntax and semantics. Python syntax and semantics required to understand the code are explained as needed for each puzzle.

The Puzzle Approach to Coding Mastery

Programming is a skill that’s easy to start learning. You can head over to a site like Codecademy and get up and running instantly. But once you finish a few introductory courses, it’s not as easy to keep making progress. You need another approach.

How to Get Better at Programming

There are two ways to keep learning a programming language once you have the basics down:

Puzzle

Option #1: Work on a project

The project could be your own project. Or if you have the right kind of job, you could convince your boss to let you work in a new language.

When you’re learning a programming language by working on a project, you should actually care what your program does. Don’t just code for the sake of practice. If you decide to learn Python by writing a Twitter client, then read and post to Twitter using your program. If neither you nor anyone else is going to use your project when it’s done, you should pick a different project.

Option #2: Work on puzzles

Programming puzzles are dreamed up solely for the sake of learning or competition. You write small programs to solve them. Once you’re done with a puzzle solution, you don’t use it for anything. It has no practical purpose.

Projects are a great way to learn programming. Since they involve solving a practical problem, you get to learn about requirements and scope trade-offs. You learn a wider variety of language features than you do with puzzles. You often find yourself maintaining your code over time, so you get to see the consequences of your design choices. Projects are great. Ultimately they’re the reason that you learn programming: so you can write programs that do useful things. But in this post, I’m going to focus on the benefits of working on puzzles.

What is a Programming Puzzle?

The programming puzzles I’m talking about consist of a problem statement, some sample input data, and the corresponding output data. The goal is to come up with an algorithm that takes any input data that meets the requirements explained in the problem statement, and outputs the correct results. A wide variety of puzzles can be expressed using this input text/process/output text format. For example, each input line could be a word, and the output could be all of the anagrams that can be formed by the letters in the word. Or each input line could contain numbers representing temperature and water flow limits, and the output could be the settings required to fill a bathtub as quickly as possible to a particular temperature.

Programming puzzles are often associated with competitive programming, since programming contests are all about solving them. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m talking about using puzzles to learn programming, not necessarily competitive programming. When someone says they’re practicing competitive programming, they usually mean that they’re preparing to compete in events, like Google Code Jam or a TopCoder Single Round Match. Although there are reasons to use that type of preparation, you can also use puzzles for their inherent learning benefits, without worrying about contests and ratings.

Advantages of the Puzzle Learning Approach

Learning a language using programming puzzles has some benefits that are more difficult to achieve using the project approach:

What you learn stays useful longer

Solving programming puzzles requires problem-solving techniques more than knowledge of technical infrastructure, like databases or network routing. The program runtime environment is as simple as it could possibly be: you read from standard input, process the data, and write your answers to standard output. The same approach was used 45 years ago in the first programming competitions. Since you don’t have to deal with environment details, all of your effort can go into problem solving and implementation using core language features.

When you’re learning a language by working on a project, you have a wider variety of topics to cover, and they tend to become obsolete faster. For example, consider a project in which you’re building a mobile app. In addition to the programming language that you’re using, you have to take into account how your app will run on different devices and whether you need to update it when new operating system versions appear. There are plenty of benefits to developing app development skills, but there is also a trade-off that leaves you with less time to develop expertise in a programming language.

You can compare your solution with someone else’s

You can learn a lot from reading someone else’s code. Even better is solving a problem and then comparing it with someone else’s solution to the same problem. While this arrangement is rare in real-world programming, you can do exactly that at puzzle sites that allow you to view others’ solutions. Even for those sites that don’t, you can often find solutions posted online. If you Google a UVa problem number, you’ll generally find numerous solutions. For CodeForces problems, you can find submitted solutions along with the problem. Solutions are helpful for getting you unstuck, and also for picking up new ideas. And since you have spent some time with the problem, it’s easier to understand the code that you’re looking at.

It’s useful preparation for technical interviews

Many companies prefer to use programming puzzles rather than technology-specific questions when interviewing candidates. This is a controversial topic that generates a lot of debate among programmers. Nevertheless, preparing for or at least tolerating these types of interviews gives you a wider range of jobs to choose from. For a summary of why these types of coding interviews are used, see Proving That You Can Juggle Code.

You can take advantage of gamification

Gamification is only slightly less controversial than coding interviews, but once again it can be useful if you can put aside any aversion you may have towards it. When you’re working on a project, you have to supply your own motivation. Programming puzzle sites, on the other hand, often come with badges and leaderboards. If you treat these as games, you can find yourself practicing regularly and making progress on your learning.

Where to Find Programming Puzzles

Even if you’re not interested in participating in competitions, contest sites are a good source of puzzles. UVa Online Judge and SPOJ have a large collection from many years of competitions. TopCoder, Codeforces, and CodeChef hold regular contests, so they are continually adding to their problem archives. Project Euler is a popular site with hundreds of problems. One thing to keep in mind though: they have more of a math emphasis than other sites. Unless you have a strong math background, you’ll probably end up studying more math than programming if you choose that one. My current preference is UVa Online Judge, as I’ll explain below.

How to Use Programming Puzzles

You’ll get some learning benefit from solving puzzles even with no particular study system. But the process known as deliberate practice is the most efficient way to get better at a complex skill like programming. One of the principles that distinguishes deliberate practice from regular practice is metacognition, or thinking about thinking. Rather than just solving puzzles, take the time to evaluate yourself as you work through each step of the solution. The best way to do this is to make notes as you work through the problems. When you encounter a difficulty, make a note of it so you remember to think about it later and look for ways to improve.

With programming practice, one of the most common challenges you’ll encounter early on is remembering syntax. An effective way to tackle this problem is to maintain a source file that you update whenever you need to look something up in the language documentation. This file helps solidify your language knowledge, and provides snippets of code that you can use as you solve other puzzles. You can find my version of this file on GitHub. As noted above, programming puzzles don’t draw on all of the features of a language. By maintaining a code reference, you can focus on the subset of the language that is most useful for puzzle solving.

Project 462

I’m trying out all of the ideas in this post as part of an experiment I’m calling Project 462. The number refers to the 462 starred problems on uHunt, a companion site to UVa Online Judge. If you want to try out the puzzle approach to coding mastery, uHunt is a reasonable place to get started. It provides a friendly interface to the UVa OJ problems, and a way to keep track of your progress.

One caveat: UVa OJ only supports C, C++, Java, and Pascal. If you want to use a different programming language, then another popular option is SPOJ, which supports over 45 languages.

Following Along

I post here every week on topics related to programming, learning techniques, and the programming puzzle approach. If you’re interested, you can follow along. I’m @RedGreenCode on Twitter, and you can find other ways to follow me on the RedGreenCode home page.