Tag Archives: Arduino

Is learning to code a bad idea?

A picture of a computer with Scratch on the screen.

Icon-based programming tools, like Scratch, help to make writing code more accessible…and fun.

Last week I read an article that made me worried for the future.  I was afraid for my children’s future, for my own future and for the future of everyone in the United States – which was probably the emotion the author intended to invoke. Will there be enough jobs for everyone? How will the less fortunate children thrive in this new digital economy? What’s that going to mean for the peace of our nation?

Quite a way to start the weekend, no?

After the fear came annoyance and anger. Then, I stopped to consider the evidence provided by the author. There were a few links. I followed them and researched others that he didn’t directly cite (this review suggests another side to the research by the MIT professors). Yes, I don’t doubt that he has some credentials (so do I), but ‘predictor of the future’ does not seem to be one of them.

No one knows what the future can hold. Yes, we can make some assumptions based on past evidence and yes, we should have important conversations about the future (hello, global warming).

According to the 1999/2000 Occupational Outlook Handbook, there was going to be a glut of master-degree librarian jobs available. The need was going to be much bigger than than the current graduates coming out of school. And then the Internet grew and grew (and grew). The housing bubble collapsed and it affected the local tax market and now librarian jobs are hard to come by these days. Why didn’t anyone see that coming?

Frankly, it was an article such as this one that dissuaded me from learning more about front-end web development during my librarian years. Almost everyone was using Dreamweaver and it was said that no one would need to learn how to write HTML because computers will be doing it for you. Well, how wrong were those people? From what I’ve been reading, a lot of professional web developers still manually code their web pages since those software programs inevitably have bugs and problems. Even though I love my WordPress-powered site, I could do more if I had a deeper understanding of the code.

Besides, do we really know what type of jobs are going to be available? In what city? In what town? Certainly, it’s good advice to not take on too much debt while a learning a new trade, but learning something new, even if you don’t use it for more than a few years, is very, very valuable. It will still be valuable if all of the jobs disappear and you have to become an urban homesteader just to survive. At least you’ll be able to build your own automatic, Arduino-powered watering and lighting system. Your vegetable garden will be the most productive one on the block. All thanks to the empowerment you gained from learning a new skill. Even one that you don’t use anymore.

Book Review :: E-Textiles

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the cover of the book e-textiles

Love the cover!

E-textiles

Ages: Teens and Adults
Toth-Chernin, Jan. E-Textiles. Cherry Lake Publishing. Ann Arbor, MI, 2014.

This book is part of the 21st Century Skills Innovation Library series. I have reviewed a couple of their other books (HTML and Game Design) and find them to be inconsistent with regards to content. Sometimes they are spot on, and sometimes the topic is too complex to be adequately covered in 30 pages.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am thrilled that someone is publishing kid-friendly books on these new technological advances, but I don’t think all of these books are as useful as they market themselves to be. This one, in particular, was very scattered and not quite appropriate for their intended audience – middle school age and younger. It’s a thin book and was found in the Juvenile section of my public library – not the teen section and not the adult section.

A picture of the T.O.C. for the book e-textiles

The book includes five chapters covering the basics of e-textiles, sewing with conductive thread, beginning projects, microcontrollers and electroluminescent wire. While there are a few projects given,  none of these projects include pictures – either of the finished product or any step-by-step pictures of the process.

A picture of pages from the book e-textiles

Sewing stitches are really difficult to understand without pictures…especially for kids.

That being said, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I’ve made some e-textiles and I found the descriptions to be too advanced and choppy at best. The author assumes a working background knowledge of e-textiles that is inappropriate for a beginning book. It was as if the author had to cover a variety of topics, but was not given effective page space to do so.

For a 32-page book, it tries to cover too much information and ends up not covering anything in-depth enough to make any sense to the reader. This topic can be quite complicated – especially when they are talking about the use of Arduino microcontrollers, such as the Flora and Lilypad. Both of those microcontrollers were mentioned in the book and require a working knowledge of the Arduino programming language. If the purpose of the book was to introduce the idea of e-textiles – then yes, they are right on the mark. If that’s the case, why would the book include DIY e-textile projects?

A picture of a page from the book e-textiles

My suggestion would be to save your money and check out the project pages provided by the Exploratorium on sewn circuits. Or, for really advanced users, subscribe to AdaFruit’s web vlog on e-textiles.

A picture of a handmade bracelet made from felt with light up LEDs, embroidered to look like an alien spaceship. e-textiles

My homemade, hand embroidered, hard-wired e-textile.

Book Review :: Sylvia’s Super Awesome Project Book Vol. 2

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Sylvia's Super Awesome Arduino book

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Arduino book