Monday, April 14, 2014

New teacher tool: class progress viewer!

Want to get a general idea of how your class is progressing through our Intro to JS course? How many challenges have most students gone through? Are they behind or ahead of where you thought? Which students haven't started the later ones? Now, instead of looking at each individual student's progress, you can look at your class progress overall to find answers to all of those questions.

Just select the "Intro to JS" mission for the "Skills Progress" report, and you'll see bars representing the percent of your students that have started or completed bits of the course:

You can click on those bars to find out precisely which students are implied by the bars:

If you only care about their progress on types of content, like challenges or videos/talk-throughs, you can filter down what you see:

If you'd like your progress picker to always show "Intro to JS", you can now select that as your class' default mission, in the "Manage Students" tab:

We hope you enjoy the new tool and look forward to hearing how you use it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

CoderDojo JS workshop for girls: Great success!

CoderDojo is a network of clubs around the world that hold coding workshops for kids, and they teach a wide variety of topics, depending on who can teach what in that city. The local chapter, CoderDojo Silicon Valley, teaches evening workshops in Minecraft, HTML/CSS, Python, and SCRATCH.

We think that what CoderDojo is awesome, and wanted to try using our Khan Academy JS curriculum to teach their audience, so we worked together to put on a workshop for middle school girls, last Saturday afternoon.

Around 40 girls flowed into the room on Saturday (the waitlist was 3x that!) and 10 volunteer mentors scattered around the room, while parents sat by and watched. We started off by talking about what programming is, including playing a fun game where they program each other with stacks of commands (like one of the crowd favorites: "get on all fours", "crawl 10 steps", "say 'moo'").

Then we got into actual programming in JS, working the first talk-through and challenge together. After that, we set them off to go at their own pace through the curriculum, with mentors around to help. Once they got through the drawing and coloring sections, we paired them with another ready student, and they programmed together on "Project: What's for Dinner" for the rest of the time. We ended with a Show & Tell, with each pair showing off their team chant, secret handshake, and of course, their dinner. Here are some of their pair projects:

From "Fire-Breathing Rubber Duckies":
From "Crazy Eaters":
 
From "Ninja Kitties":
From "Imagine Bosses":

 
From "Wafflicious":
From "KT Stars":

It was a lot of fun, and a workshop that I hope that both I and others can repeat. To make it easier for others to replicate, I've put together a detailed lesson plan with print outs and a suggested agenda. Let me know if you have any questions or put one on yourself!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New way to review what you learn in Intro to JS!

For each of the concepts that we cover in Intro to JS, students learn and practice through an alternating sequence of talk-throughs and challenges, and then finish up with a creative project. We want to give students a way to review what they've learnt in the talk-throughs without having to re-watch them all, to give them another opportunity to solidify everything they've learnt, and to give them one more chance to ask questions about the concepts. So, we've added "Review" articles at the end of each tutorial, which students can read and discuss, before they tackle the project. Here are quick links to check out each one:

We've only had these articles out for a few days, but students love them so far and are asking great questions in the discussion. If you have students learning JS, you may want to point them to the articles to refresh and reenforce what they've learned.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New tool for programming teachers: see your students' progress!

When a student is going through our Intro to JS curriculum, they have a distinct visual goal: make the icons completely green! For example, here's my progress on the Arrays section, where I've made it most of the way through:

As a teacher of students going through the curriculum, how can you know how each of your students is progressing? You can look over their shoulder, as you're wandering through the classroom. But maybe your students are virtual, or they're working on it from home, or you want to check at night when you were wondering how all your students are doing.

To help teachers track individual student progress, we've now added "Intro to JS" as an option in the "Student Progress" report, and we show each student's progress through the curriculum when you select it:

You can see what content they've started, completed, or not started at all, and you can filter to view only the completed content. You can also click on the Videos or Activity tabs to narrow down to what they've done specifically in the last week, month, etc.

We hope this helps give you more insight to how your students are progressing, and of course, we'll continue to work on the teacher experience.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Mastery Badge for Intro to JS!

Now that we have a complete Intro to JS curriculum with more than 30 interactive coding challenges, how can students show to their teachers and the world that they've successfully completed it? As of today, with a brand new shiny "Intro to JS: Drawing & Animation Mastery" badge!

We consider this badge a "challenge patch", like the ones we already reward to students that complete all the "Fraction" exercises or "3rd grade math" mission, so that's where you'll find it on a user's profile. For example, to see it on my profile, visit my badges page and click "Challenge Patches".

Once students earn the badge, they'll get a notification (like with all badges), and they can choose to add it to their showcase, since it's a pretty cool accomplishment they can be proud of.

If you're a student or you coach a student that should have earned the badge but didn't yet, don't fret. We run a script to award badges to students that already completed the challenges, but if a student hasn't been active recently, that script may not work as expected. Feel free to contact us at compsci-feedback at khanacademy.org with a link to the student profile in question, and we can manually trigger that script.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Watched a programming talk-through? See it in the progress reports!

For both students and especially for teachers, one of the most helpful aspects of Khan Academy is the activity logging: we record when you do videos, exercises, and challenges, and surface that on user profiles, progress viewer, and teacher reports.

After launching the DonorsChoose rewards program a few weeks ago, we got a lot of reports from teachers anxious that they couldn't see the fact that their students had watched the programming videos- that's because the programming "videos" are actually "talk-throughs", these crazy things we invented that sync audio to coding. But, hey, that shouldn't matter, we should still be logging the talk-through watching the same way we log the Youtube video watching everywhere else on the site. We want programming teachers to know as much about their students' progress as math teachers, to have a consistent, great experience.

As of today, we are now logging talk-through progress the same way that we log video progress. You'll see them show up in the activity feed, progress reports, weekly emails, activity graph - anywhere you see videos now:

We hope this helps teachers track their students better, and we look forward to continuing to improve the teacher experience. If you ever have feedback, feel free to comment here or email us at compsci-feedback at khanacademy.org.

What does a computing professional look like? Find out on Khan Academy!

We have thousands of K-12 students learning computer programming on Khan Academy - we don't expect all of them to go on to major in Computer Science and dedicate their career to computing, but well, we certainly hope that some sizable portion of them do make that decision. But do they even know what it means to have a career in computing? As Shuchi Grover described in her article on fixing misperceptions of CS, research shows that most students don't have a "clear understanding of what computer science is and what a computer scientist does."

That's why we've launched our "Meet the Professional" series. We found people working in different fields (like physics, charity, and games), from all over the world (including a few nomads), with a ton of different hobbies, too (dancing, archery, biking, writing) - our goal is to show that diversity comes in many forms!

Here's who we started with:

For each of the professionals, we asked them what they work on, how they learned to program, and what they do for fun. We also finished off by asking each of them "What’s your one piece of advice for new programmers?" and we got some great responses from them, which I want to share a few of here:

"Don’t be afraid to break stuff, it’s all virtual anyway." - Yann Dauphin
"Do not let other people intimidate you. Everyone is continuously learning, and people will probably be using very different tools and languages just a few years from now. This field is extremely broad but extremely young, and we’re not even close to figuring out all the new things we can do, and a few years and a big ego don’t matter as much as being able to continually learn." - Amy Quispe
"Programming is super creative - find a problem you’re interested in solving or something you want to create and it will make the challenges worth solving." - Lauren Haynes
"It’s easy to look at great programmers and feel really inadequate, like you’ll never measure up or be a ‘real’ programmer. But I have had the privilege of meeting some of the greatest programmers on the web today, and they all have had the same experience - they all felt like fakes and impostors when they were starting out, and none of them thought it was easy at first, no matter how easy they make it look now. If you have written one single line of code, then you are a real programmer - and if you keep on coding and learning, you will one day be a master, too." - Bill Mills
"The most important thing for me has been to make things that make me giggle." - Marcos Ojeda

The students have loved the stories so far, expressing their thanks in the comments that they've found people who both inspire them and are like them. A few favorite reactions:

"Thank you so much for your article and for your background story, I can honestly relate to the micro-inequity issues that you mention. However after reading your articles, I am encouraged to persevere in this field that I find so interesting." - a reaction to Philip Guo
"You rock! You're a programmer, you think goofy programs are important, and you have a dog... what could be awesomer? a clue: NOTHING." - a reaction to Marcos Ojeda
"I've been trying to learn on my own while I get ready for a 2nd bachelors in computer science. I feel positive but so nervous about the change--I'm 26 and just learning to code, I'm a girl and not a typical geek, and it feels like I'm leaving the known behind. This was the perfect thing for me to click on! It's encouraging to read your story (down to that we even have the same first names and enjoy dancing). Thanks." - a reaction to Carrie Cai
"I really like how the author mentioned how he failed at code until grad school! For me, it's encouraging to know that it's possible to start later on in life, especially now, where a lot of people start really young and are pros from the start. It really is nice to know that everyone has a chance to become good at coding, regardless on current skill level!" - a reaction to Bill Mills

We look forward to adding more computing professionals to the series, to further expand the range in students' minds of what they can do with computer programming and computer science knowledge. If you have ideas for someone that would be great to highlight, let us know. If you are teaching students, have them read through the series, ask them who their favorite is, and if it's given them new ideas for what they could do. Help us show them the diverse world of computing professionals!