Big ideas don't make up for poor infrastructure
Today was my first Code Club for this school year. And I had all these big plans. If you've been following the blog you'll have seen some of my thoughts on how I could make my Code Clubs better. And today I put a bunch of those into practice.
The code puzzles idea went great. I'll write a separate post about that. But my big plans to have the kids all use Scratch 2 on the MIT website didn't work so well. We started out by telling them that they had to create users on the scratch site - this wasn't my original plan. I'd meant to setup users for them so they could just be handed a username and password as they arrived. That didn't happen. Poor planning on my part.
But the big problem was the internet connection. It just wasn't up to the job at all. I don't know exactly why but sometimes the web responded and sometimes it just waited and waited and waited without ever sending data to the browser. And of course the computers are so locked down there's no way I can get at a command prompt to diagnose the problem. My best guess is that there's something upstream - probably a proxy server designed to protect the kids - that is overloaded and dropping connections. The school has a slow 1.7 Mb/sec internet connection but it doesn't look like a straightforward bandwidth crunch. I've seen those and they're annoying but they just go slow. They don't stop.
So today's club was a lot of kids struggling to create logins - a trial in its own right since most usernames are long since taken on the Scratch site. And a lot of kids staring at a blank browser waiting for the internet to respond.
Not the triumphant start to Code Club that I'd hoped for.
So I guess the message I've learned from this is don't rely on schools having good internet connections. And this is a message for Code Club because I find a lot of what they produce assumes a great deal from the school's IT that might seem basic to you and me but in school is not a sure thing. Things like access to Notepad. Or the ability to install Python. Or a functional internet connection.