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C'est la Z

New Term, New Tool -

We're now a week in to my first class at Hunter. It's a little early for me to really compare and contrast the high school to college experience but I thought I'd share some thoughts on a tool that I've recently started to play with.

My students were all supposed to be issued laptops at the beginning of the semester. The plan was to have them learn Linux, the command line, and a little DevOps along the way. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised to learn that the laptops weren't going to come in until late September.

Scratch all that advance lesson planning. A brief scramble and I was able to relocate the class into a computer lab but now we can't customize the kids environments.

Time to look for an online solution.

We're starting the kids off in Python, a choice that I'll talk about in some future post and normally my online go to for Python is I'm a big fan of the codesters team and product. This time, though, I decided to try something else. Specifically Partly because, as with codesters, I like the people behind it. It's also pretty simple and it supports a lot of different languages:

APL, ES2015 ,Bloop, BrainF, C, CoffeeScript, C++, C++11, C#, Emoticon, Forth, F#, Go, Java, JavaScript, LOLCODE, Lua, Nodejs, PHP, Python, Python3, QBasic, Roy, Ruby, Rust, Scheme, Swift, Unlambda, and HTML, CSS, JS

It's still a pretty new product so there are occasional hiccups but I'm really liking things so far. Some of the things I like include:

  • a simple clean interface.
  • sharing and embedding code:

<script src="//"></script>

  • project mode which allows multi file projects
  • examples to get you started

But the thing I'm really liking are the teacher features they're working on. The teacher interface isn't fancy. I like that. Things are simple and clean and they let me get the job done.

I had two extra minutes in class yesterday and in that time, I was able to:

  1. Make a classroom
  2. Invite all my students by email
  3. Create 2 quick assignments.

The assignment page lets you give starter code as well as instructions and it also lets you put in tests that are run when a student submits their work for instant feedback.

I really like the tests feature on projects. So far, I've only played with Python unit tests. uses a really easy to follow interface and has a sample test to guide you. There's also an option for input/output matching which includes flexible matching and regular expressions but I haven't played with it yet.

Overall, I'm liking this tool. When the kids get their laptops we'll probably use it somewhat less as they start to learn to use their own systems but I'm glad to have in my teaching arsenal.

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