Portable Linux Lab: A Novel Approach to Teaching Programming in Schools – Emma Foley & Laura Reddy, Intel

When Emma was in secondary school, one of her teachers decided he was going to teach programming, even though they hardly had a computer – this is how she got into technology.
There is a lack of STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) professionals, there is not much computing done in schools, tech is not very well known and stereotyped, and there’s a lack of diversity.
GIFT-ED (Firls influenced for technology in education) program is a 8-week mentoring initiative for 14-year old female students. Goals is to make a carreer in STEM something normal. Why is it not considered normal now? Girls think it’s not interesting, that they wouldn’t be good at it, and that the people in it are not very nice. This program was a big success. However, it wasn’t really scalable. One problem was that the school computer labs were very restricted. It also wasn’t easy to continue independently, because it’s difficult to get started at home (they partly achieved that by teaching HTML/Javascript which they could continue at home). So maybe better to use Linux instead of windows, with a live USB; you also have a lot more things you can tackle that way: shell, python, and even compiled languages (HTML doesn’t teach you that many computer skills). However, it is still staring at a screen and not real-life. Hence Portable Linux Lab:
Portable Linux Lab is a Galileo or Edison with a breadboard with LEDs and buttons, so something real is happening which keeps the motivation going. This also gives more opportunities for problem solving, because things can go wrong in the HW as well as SW. And it allows you to teach about electronics with the same thing. And it’s portable. And it gives them Linux experience, which will give them more confidence.
At earlier age, scratch or graphical programming in Arduino is probably better (spelling is an issue…).


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