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#FLmobigame – Week 2

Thu 20th March 2014

Well it’s the start of “Week 4” and I’m just doing Week 2. Well, actually I’ve just spent an hour trying to do part 1.14 of Week 1 – getting the code to run on an actual Android phone. Eclipse and adb just wouldn’t accept my phone existed; turns out I had something called EasyTether installed (barely remember getting it and immediately realising it was rubbish), and had to uninstall it to get adb to recognise my phone. Now the code is totally working on my phone (see video).

Now that completes Week 1, I can start Week 2!

The first couple of topics are fairly easy, introducing the week and the idea of debugging. The first significant video is 2.3: Variables. The explanation of variables compared to real life and maths is a little unclear. I’ve never seen Java programmers using Hungarian notation, though maybe I’ve not looked hard enough; it doesn’t really make sense to use “m” to delimit member variables – use this.variable if you’re worried about clashes with local variables. On the upside, I absolutely love the digitised animated background!

FLmobigame-digitised-sky

I am fascinated by the idea of teaching programming using the debugger as a tool for reading and understanding code. This seems like a marvellous exercise to force students to figure out code before they’ve learned any thing, plus it gives them the chance to learn about the debugger before it’s too late! I might pinch this idea 🙂

I quite like the quiz. The questions get progressively harder, and I even got caught out by the age question (who uses bytes anyway?!) However, to show you whether you got it right or wrong, it redisplays the whole question, and given it displays the whole Future Learn stuff at the top, even the question is mostly below the fold, so it’s not really clear you’ve not moved onto the next question.

I’m a little surprised the videos seem to have been done in one take; there are a number of pauses which detract from the flow a little. I’m not sure if this is common amongst other MOOCs though?

There’s a lot of mention of the “many, many operators”, other than the common maths ones (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), but never a list of these. Also, I initially struggled to think of a lot more, so I looked it up: List of Java Operators. There are 40, which is a lot. But 11 of those are combinations of assignment and another operator. Another 4 are pre-fix/post-fix unary operators, which are just another variation of assignment and an operator. There’s 6 common comparison operators, which will no doubt be explained in relation to if statements, and the operators to make a number positive or negative. So that leaves about 11 odd-balls (bitwise and shift operators) that I certainly don’t use on a day-to-day basis, so a beginner is unlikely to come across. So if we’re counting all of them, there are many, but in terms of actually useful ones, there’s about a dozen and you’ve probably already seen them before in maths.

I almost wonder whether I should watch the videos last, as the text seems to go into more detail about each thing, and the video is almost a summary of that information. I’m not finding it that useful to have an out of context summary first, followed by detail, but that may just be me.

Beware the third operator question. It’s not been covered that attempting to assign things of different type results in a compilation error.

The code changes were quite nice though. Simple modifications that have a big effect, making it obvious to see the impact it had.

The “help each other” discussion parts are really useful for me to see what people don’t understand when it hasn’t been explained yet. For example, the actionOnTouch(float x, float y) method makes use of x and y, but method parameters haven’t been explained yet, so one participant was unsure where these variables had come from.

Done! Week 2 wasn’t too bad. Didn’t make a lot of progress on the game, but some important fundamentals were introduced. I feel a little more practical work would help embed the lessons a bit better, and would help the learner see more progress. Now I just have to plough through Week 3 and I’ll almost be caught up!

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From → MOOCs, Programming

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