Scratches & Bruises


Last week, I volunteered at an NYU event (hosted by my old club!) to teach high school girls how to program. It totally changed my mind about what to use to teach kids how to program: they should start with Scratch.

It probably helped that one of Scratch’s creators, Tammy Stern, introduced it. In a few minutes, she created a program that made Beyonce’s head larger and smaller depending on how loud the audience clapped while a funky beat (programmatically generated) played.

90% of the groups of high schoolers ended up with a program that fit a single formula: find celebrity that they liked, find a horribly tacky background, find a song that they liked, then make the celebrity move back and forth on the background while the song played. I only noticed two groups that programmed something interactive, the rest basically used Scratch to make a movie. User interaction seems more conceptually difficult, so it makes sense, but I thought it was interesting.

Each volunteer from Google brought two old-school 15-inch MacBook Pros with them for the students to use. They were really heavy, but I felt like a wimp for hardly being able to carry two laptops. The next day my neck felt stiff and, when I looked in the mirror mid-afternoon, I noticed that my right shoulder was about six inches lower than my left. I tried shrugging it up. It wasn’t painful, but it also didn’t stay up.

I checked in with Andrew about it (one of the perks of working in the same building). He took a look at my shoulders and said, “Let’s go to the doctor’s right now.” The doctor said that a muscle in my back had been “bruised” by the exertion, which was pushing my shoulder out of whack. Over the weekend, my muscle recovered and now my shoulders are just about even again. Phew!


P.S. At the Black Girls Code thing I did a few weeks ago, the students had to look up images that they wanted to use on their webpage. One of the girls did a Google image search for unicorns. The first result was the photoshopped image on the right. The little girl gasped. “Unicorns are real?” she asked me, completely seriously. It must be confusing to be a kid in the age of Photoshop.

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