CSTA Day 2 PM: TouchDevelop and Creative Coding through Games and Apps

TouchDevelop and the CCGA course- Michael Braun and Peli de Halleux

Would you like to integrate coding into any grade-level classroom? Peli de Halleux of Microsoft Research and Michael Braun K-12 Computer Science Teacher  shared a revolutionary new web-based technology called TouchDevelop, which any K-12 teacher can use to integrate coding into any grade level, without any previous coding experience. In this session, they went beyond how to use TouchDevelop, which works on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac or Linux. They providedhands on activities and extended tutorials to learn the dashboard, create an online classroom, and develop mobile apps.


Michael Braun – nationally recognised as Computer Science educator

Peli – Microsoft, also does some teaching in TEALS program.

Brian Swan – Microsoft– wrote CCGA course

TouchDevelop came out of MS 5 years ago for mobile devices – prompted by difficulty of programming iPhone, so can now code on phone, tablet, laptop.

Editor runs in EVERY browser – OK on Android, iPhone Chromebooks. (MS guy presented in Chrome!). Caches properly even when internet connectivity is lost.

Highly structured – can build typos or syntax errors but it detects them – the environment sits somewhere between a block language and a text language.

Can publish and share as game etc. Published items are available for re-editing by others.
Showcase of interesting apps.

Three modes:
Beginner – blocks, hides some options
Coder – more options,no block colour
Expert – full access

Built-in image search (can report dodgy images)

Support – designed for people with no support, extremely directed – needs to be managed in class.

Will work with Google, Facebook, Microsoft account or none at all (if not wanting to save)

Source code is on github as open source

Partnering with BBC micro:bits to allow coding on that platform.

Tutorials – mostly for beginner students
Some training available

Coding example: (see later)

Change nickname and wallpaper

Tutorials provide huge assistance

Can set up groups, have multiple students working on same project online (has texting feature)

Students publish to a group, can then rate and look at them, can also share the webpage url for each app.

Creative Coding through Games and Apps – the course

http://aka.ms/CCGAforCSTA has materials for course (Brian Swan) – some links may be broken

Aimed at base level, non programmers.

• Semester course = 90 x 50 min lessons, flexible (designed as 18 weeks but can take part of this)
• Based on TouchDevelop
• 34 tutorials, games, exercises, activities etc
• Created by CS teachers
• Relevant content – games and apps
• Mix of online and unplugged
• accessible
• free
• Project-based with capstone projects at 9 and 12 weeks
Uses cloud variables so kids can exchange data.
Some intro data types but no database
Teambased design build and market their own app

https://www.touchdevelop.com/wpyf  has tutorial we used

U1.07Tutorial _Ex has task

Course has game theory as part of its content.

Mark the Spot activity checks their understanding of game coordinates.

Students need headphones – suggest make them a “booklist” item.

Specific considerations for DoE Tasmania

The TouchDevelop environment has several features that make it useful for DoE schools. It is free, it has a relatively low entry requirement, it can be used to develop apps that are sufficiently challenging for students and it has enough peer interaction tools to allow some social learning. It does have limitations in terms of its target environment but this is less of a problem that it may appear – the reality is that 95% of apps developed by students are not commercially oriented, so the final platform isn’t an issue for most students. Where some students are wanting to develop commercially, alternative platforms need to be given some thought.


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