A techie dad’s perspective on school

By Anne Collier

The subhead of this post might be: “Writing code as an extracurricular activity” or Venturebeat‘s headline, “Why your 8-year-old should be coding,” or just “Let them learn code!” Another article about Harvard undergrads’ extracurricular code-writing activity shows how that activity can enrich a whole lot of lives as well as open up careers for young code writers, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First the dad’s perspective:

The parent in question, Krishna Vedati, who came to the US to get a degree in computer science and became a tech entrepreneur, now has kids aged 6 and 9. Like most American kids, they’re exposed to all kinds of technology outside of school while “their schools haven’t changed in 50 years,” Vedati told Venturebeat. So he helped create a free Web-based service called Tynker.com specifically for elementary-school-aged kids. It teaches them the basics – the logic – of software programming (“code writing”) while they do fun things like create their own digital games. It sounds a little like MIT-based Scratch (for creating and sharing games, animations, music, and visual art) aimed at 8-to-16-year-olds, and then there’s Treehouse for older kids. Vedati’s not alone in his view – see Code.org and a piece about “Why every single one of you should learn a little code,” which is probably where things are headed, actually. Learning code will be a bit like learning another language.

So here’s what can happen with an extracurricular activity (this one in college): A group of Harvard undergrads are developing technology that, in effect, turns paintings into bas reliefs so the blind can “see” them, FastCompany.com reports. One of the students, Constantine Tarabanis, got the idea because he’d volunteered at a school for the blind back home in Thessaloniki, Greece. “Using a combination of computer-aided design software and 3-D printing technology, Tarabanis and his partners believe it should be relatively easy to create what he calls ‘two-and-a-half-D models’ of paintings,” according to FastCompany. His co-developers are Vaios Triantafyllou, also from Greece, Rishav Mukherji and Aaron Perez. They’re all sophomores, and they call their project “Midas Touch.” [See also this 3-part series on Minecraft in school, starting here.]

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