Week 16 Update

This week we added a load screen, updated our internal tools to graph user success rates on a per lesson and per question basis, updated our match_code quiz type to support CSS, and completed another CSS lesson.   Essentially, we’ve been polishing up the app. And now we just have 4 more CSS lessons to write, and we will be all set for our first public release.

Additionally, we will demoing our project along side several other great community projects at the GigLab’s Launch Party next Saturday.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/giglab-launch-gigabit-community-fund-demo-day-tickets-14241445547

– tim

Week 15 Update

This week we started our pilot test with Clifton Hills.  It was really neat how this all came together.  For starters, the school needed 20 tablets, and we just happen to have exactly 20 tablets on hand.  What is even more interesting about this fact is that we had actually been slowly acquiring tablets in preparation to donate them to the school without any indication on how many we needed.   And in the mean-time, we were using them at events such as the Chattanooga & New York Maker Faire.  Anyways, we had actually acquired 21 tablets, but we found out a couple days prior that one stopped working.  So, we ended up having exactly 20 tablets at the exact time the school needed 20 tablets.  Secondly, we ended up piloting with one of the very first people in education I met on our first prototype day.  This was at hacknooga and it was really just the beginning of devLearn, back when it was just at the idea stage.  Then, I found out on the first day of our pilot that she helps updates some of the school sites and has experience with HTML.  This is really helpful to us.  Especially, with the younger kids, as even though the app is designed to self-taught, kids will definitely have questions.  It’s just great to work with someone that loves what they do, and is always on the lookout for ways to their classroom and the classrooms of others. Lastly, we are still getting started with the pilot, but I’m always stressed about is the app too challenging or too difficult. So, it’s been encouraging to see that even though it can be difficult for some of the younger kids, that they are always so positive and they actual do try it out several times until they get it right. It’s definitely not a Nintendo, but actually, nearly all of the kids say they want to keep using the app.

Anyways, we’ve been working hard programming too.  This week we tweaked the app to work on smaller phones that have smaller displays, tweaked the sign-up error messages, fixed a pretty bad memory leak, implemented additional fixes, and implemented a coming soon page for additional languages.  We still have more work to do on our CSS language, but we are really looking to make our first release on the Google Play Store later this month.

– tim

Week 14 Update

This week we added the display of grades to the lesson pages.  Now, users can quickly see which lessons they have completed and how well they performed on each individual lesson.  Additionally, we took preparation steps to work with our first pilot school.  We will be working with three classrooms this week in order to ensure we have the right difficulty level and that students are mastering all the material.  Lastly, we went through all our open task items and narrowed down the list to just seven tasks that we plan to complete before our first public 1.0 launch!  We are getting closer.

– tim

Week 13 Update

This week we started testing the application on a wide variety of devices, particularly a wide range of android phones, and worked out several display issues.  We are actually really close to completing this.  All, we have left to do is to tweak some of the image scaling to ensure that images are appropriate sizes on some of the smaller phones.  In all, we are just inching closer every day.

– tim

Week 12 Update

This week we went to the Creative Discovery Museum and Maker Faire!  We were thrilled to see we had a very favorable response to app.  In fact, the number one question was “where can we get the app.”  So, this is exactly what we are going to be working on, and we hope to have an early version of the app available soon.  If you would like to be put on our notification list, just send us e-mail at devlearnapp@gmail.com.

Additionally, we have been continually tweaking the lesson difficulty.  It’s quite a difficult task to bring something as complex as computer programming and break it down to be easy to learn and understand for someone that has no idea what programming even means.  And we are going to working some more on this with our pilot school, but it looks like we are finally getting really close.  This time, the majority of kids passed the lesson on the first attempt, and to our surprise we actually had a 2nd grader get a B without any assistance.  And for the vast majority of kids.  Once they pass the first lesson, they just want to keep going and are ready to handle the more difficult aspects.

Anyways, back to coding.

– tim

Week 11 Update

Tomorrow we will be at the Creative Discovery Museum between 5:30 and 7:30 for startup week Chattanooga.  And then, on Saturday we are going to be at the Mini Maker Faire also here in Chattanooga.  So, this should be a lot of fun.

http://startupweekcha.com/

http://makerfairechattanooga.com/

But, just to let you know, we are still making excellent progress on our app.  We have kind of shifted from new development to the refinement process.  We are really looking forward to pushing our first release to the app store soon, and making it public.  In fact, I just heard from another person asking me today when they can get their hands on it.  So, the answer is soon.  But anyways, along with this we are fixing a lot of bugs, tweaking the lessons to make them more user-friendly, and slowly adding more lessons.  Our big thing for this week; though, is that we finally implemented showing of the correct answer for the more complex quiz types.  Previously, because of screen re-estate issues, we were only marking questions as incorrect without showing the correct answer in some cases.  But now, for every single question, we display both the answer that the user supplied and the correct answer beside each other.  This way a user can see exactly what they got incorrect in every case, and then they will know exactly how to get it right the next time.

Week 10 Update

As mentioned in our previous post, in NYC we got a lot of great feedback.  So this week, we spent the majority of time fixing bugs and implementing changes based on the feedback.  This includes usability changes such as the ordering of lessons, continue button fixes, tweaking of confusing questions, and most importantly modifying our lesson plan.

Also, we are going to be attending startup week at the Creative Discovery Museum here in Chattanooga on next Thursday between 5:30 and 7:30pm.  There, we are looking forward to getting another round of feedback on our latest changes.  Anyways, if you’re in town, definitely come check it out.

– tim

Week 9 Update

This week we went to the Maker Fair in New York!  We had a great time there, and more importantly we got lots of great feedback.  For us, this was actually the first time we had children test out the app, so it was really useful to have hands on experiences from our target demographic.

We quickly realized the two big areas we need to work on the most is bugs and difficulty.  As far as bugs goes, it’s less of a bug but more of a usability issue.  We have to make sure the continue button is completely disabled until the screen is loaded or a question is completely answered.  Sometimes when the Internet was slow, users would click on the continue button several times and that would advance them too far or cause them to miss a question.  Secondly, we need to make the first lesson just a little bit easier.  The group of kids with even the tiniest amount of HTML just flew through the lesson, but really we want the kids with no experience do great.  This should be easy to fix, we just need to tweak a couple of the questions that are confusing.  Additionally, we plan to split the first lesson into two lessons.  This should make it a lot easier.  It’s really our goal to have everyone ace the first couple of lessons.  Because, once they get through the first initial hurdle, they tend to do really well and start to really enjoy the learning process.  Then on, the flip side, I think we may actually need harder lessons towards the end.

Now for the good part, we had an optional survey that the majority of the people completed.   And the results were really good.  I’ll let the graphs speak for themselves, but I was actually surprised by a couple.  The majority of the people felt they did well on the first lesson, and every single person said they would recommend using the application.  Also, a number of people asked us and signed up to be beta testers, even without us asking or having a sign-up form.

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Week 8 Update

This week we are going to New York!  We’re stoked to be part of this years’ Maker Fair at the New York Hall of Science and have already started counting down the days to our departure!

Anyways, partly in preparation for the event, we implemented a number of app tweaks and fixes last week.  First, we implemented the ability to sign-out.  This is needed so that we can better support multiple users on a single device.  Additionally, we redesigned the registration and sign-in pages so that they more closely match the apps overall flat design theme.  And, we implemented better notifications for when users get questions either correct or incorrect.  Also, in addition to implementing general lesson fixes, we have started the process of getting the application working on more devices.  Lastly, we continued to work on adding more lessons to the app.  Our goal is to keep current with our lesson plan schedule, despite any other features we would like to implement.  So we’ve been happy, that we’ve been able to keep chugging along in this regard.

Week 7 Update

This week we worked on a leaderboard that will be able to be used to monitor statistics on individuals testing the app in real-time.  This will be useful for when we have several users testing at once.   And it also provides some feedback to the testers so that they can see how they are doing compared to a larger group.  Additionally, now that we have completed the core HTML lessons, we started on the CSS lessons and have knocked out the first one.  This also includes changes to our tutorials to support HTML, CSS, and JavaScript source views.

Anyways, we decided to start CSS first instead of JavaScript, for a couple of reasons.  First, CSS is naturally the second language to learn after HTML from a user perspective.  CSS just goes hand and hand with HTML.  Secondly, it is a much easier language to learn, and should fit well with our target audience being of new developers.  And lastly, we are still thinking about different ways to incorporate learning JavaScript on the phone.  It’s more logic oriented so we want to make sure we implement the right mechanics so that the user is using logic to solve issue, but at the same time not being bogged down by having to input hard to locate characters.  We got this figured out for the other two languages, but for JavaScript we need to spend just a little more time thinking about it.

Finally, there was a news report in Finland that programming will become part of their curriculum in 2016.  The source (http://koodi2016.fi/ops.html#section-1) is in Finnish, but the translated highlights are: Grades 1-2: Giving unambiguous command sequences to another person.  Grades 3-6: Using some kind of visual programming environment (not an actual programming language).  Grades 7-9: Actual programming language.