051: The Late Mr. Cimafranca

12734240_10153879943581358_2929110743105872987_nFull disclosure: this picture and its copyright do not belong to me. It was taken by my friend John Naranjo and posted on the Hackademy Jr web site.

After months of planning and marketing, Ingenuity finally got the Game Programming with Scratch going, I taught nine kids the basics of Scratch and introduced them to game programming. As I like to say, I’ve leveled up. I won’t be teaching college kids anymore, I’ll be teaching grade school!

The class makeup was a bit of a surprise to me. I had expected ten-year-olds and up because we had marketed the workshop to Grade 5, 6, 7, and 8. Some folks, thought, took the line from the brochure “welcome to kids of all ages” a little too seriously and I ended up with a couple of second graders. I reconfigured the material and though I fumbled a bit we (the students and me) managed to pull it off.

I really appreciated these kids, though. Despite being younger than I expected, they all managed to follow instructions and put their own spin to the game. I was most impressed by L—, a fourth grader, who pieced the puzzles very quickly despite working with a too-tiny laptop with which he had to scroll. I was also very happy that we had girls in the class and they too were very quick on the uptake.

The kids and I had a few interesting conversations.

Me: “Great work, Z—! What do you want to do next?” (I was referring to her ideas for the game on Scratch.)
Z: “Uhm, could you teach me how to publish this game on the Play store?”
Me: “Uh…hmmm…well….”

Me: “Good work, J—! What do you want to do next?” (I should really stop asking this question.)
J: “Could you teach me how to publish my game on the web?” (Grrr…kids these days…)
Me: “Okay, I’ll show you how to do that next week.”
J: “And could you teach me scripting? Like real coding? None of this drag-and-drop stuff?”
Me: “Uh…hmmm…well….”

Me: “Hey, it was good meeting you, J—!”
J: “I don’t even know your name!”
Me: “Uh…hmmm…well….”

Z— has challenged me a bit and I’ll be striving to answer her question. Scratch won’t cut it, though, so we’ll have to look at some other game development tool. J—, well, J— is a rascal.

Despite my Lenten resolution not to be late, I made quite a mess of things today. All along I had it in my mind that the Scratch workshop would be in the afternoon. That was how we had originally planned it. Somewhere along the way, the marketing team had shifted to a morning schedule. My fault: they had sent me the marketing materials but my reading-blindness kicked in and I totally missed it. End result: I accepted another appointment to talk to Ateneo’s BlueVote team about the optical mark recognition technology we would be using.

Our original schedule for the BlueVote meeting was 9:00AM but yesterday they moved it to 8:30AM. Then they texted this morning that we would be starting at 8:00AM, just as I was still preparing to leave the house. I was close to Ateneo at 8:25AM when John texted: “Are you on your way? The kids are here.” Panic time.

I called up John and told them I had to pass by quickly at Ateneo. In the meantime, I asked them to get the kids signed up on the Scratch web site. They could familiarize themselves with some games.

At Ateneo, they swapped another speaker in my place. Ma’am Bing saw me standing outside and came to see me. “You’re up at 9:15AM.” “Er, Ma’am, we have a bit of a problem….” I explained to her my quandary. I think she gave me a disappointed look. “I’ll come back in the afternoon, after the team has already filled in the forms,” I said. I rushed back out.

At Ingenuity, the kids were waiting. I think John might have been a little antsy already. He gave me a disappointed look. I put on my best face. “Okay, kids, good morning! I’ll be your teacher today….”

I think it all worked out well. If I had given my spiel at Ateneo this morning, it would have been as simple as “Make sure to use X’s, don’t shade them all the way through.” But since I was doing it in the afternoon, with the sample surveys already filled in, I actually scanned and processed the forms right in front of everybody. Fortunately no glitches, SDAPS worked beautifully (thank you, Benjamin Berg!). We went through the different ways people marked and mangled their forms, we worked out some of the kinks in our design. What I thought was a short discussion lasted an hour-and-a-half. But it was meaningful in-depth discussion, with real action items.

All the while, I apologized profusely. I am never going to live this down.

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Dom Cimafranca

Teacher, writer, project manager, and all-around nice guy.