Hinweis: Eine deutsche Fassung dieses Berichts findet sich auf meinem konzeptblog.
My observations and notes to the Snap! Conference 22.-25.09.2019 in Heidelberg.
A few days ago the 1st international conference of the Snap! community took place, a small (about 70 TN), but fine conference, which probably deliberately followed up the Scratch conferences in terms of organization and content (see my reports on Scratch2015 Amsterdam and Scratch2017 Bordeaux). The conference atmosphere was comparably friendly and stimulating. Furthermore, it was much more profitable for me in terms of content.
It is hard for me to name highlights, because with a few exceptions the keynotes, lectures and workshops I was able to attend were very interesting for me.
The conference began with Cynthia Solomons very personal review of the 50th anniversary of Logo. Those who took part in Amsterdam knew a lot, but found additional historical pictures and videos. Unfortunately there was no longer a discussion with a bridge to the characteristics of the modern successors Scratch and Snap!, which in my opinion made the growing popularization of the Logo ideas possible.
Two keynotes presented the status and perspectives of Computer Science Education in the USA, Dan Garcia with the focus on Beauty and Joy of Computing with the use of Snap!, Cuny with the focus on ComputerScience for All and the questions of Diversity and Inclusion (I have to admit that I missed a few details with my rusty English at the speaking speed of the two). As far as I follow the discussion about the compulsory subject computer science and the „Digitalpakt“ in Germany, these projects and initiatives are more goal-oriented and further than what is practiced and planned in this country. By the way it would be great, there are also courses like Beauty and Joy of Math, Beauty and Joy of Biology etc.!
No wonder that at a Snap! conference three contributions dealt with the developments in the visual programming environment Snap! itself: The Story of Snap!, What`s new in Snap! 5 and The Future of Snap!. For me, it’s reassuring that the development of Snap! remains dynamic, is open to suggestions from the community, and promotes exchange within the community. So it’s worth browsing through the projects and collections, especially the collection of applications shown at the conference.
Gary Stager continued at a high speaking speed again, impressively showing how the idea of Papert’s Mathland can look like today (see also scratchmathland). His lecture was peppered with side blows to the practice of today’s math lessons (such as the „calculator as an illusion of progress“).
Since there are now a number of visual programming environments that are relevant for computer science teaching, Sebastian Claus has made the meritorious attempt to put together and contrast the underlying programming paradigms. I could not participate in Richard Millwood’s workshop „How to compare jigsaw programming languages“ with similar objectives (see this short information). These two approaches should definitely be brought together.
There are still my workshops to mention in which I really worked! Sven Jatzlau and Tilman Michaeli presented SnAIp, a concept how to open the black box of machine learning. With the example of reinforcement learning, we were able to understand the transparent implementation in Snap! Fascinating, so I absolutely have to rework it!
This also applies to Astronomical Image Processing by Eckart Modrow, because of course his DataSpriteLibrary is not only suitable for astronomical images but also for art projects! Here, too, the processing of the (very large) amounts of data is transparent and can be traced.
With MicroBlocks I have to dedicate myself to another addition to the Snap! Family. I already got a microcontroller for that. Now all I need is some time to adopt this new field of application and make it usable for multimedia installations! After all, in the workshop of Ferrandíz, Guillén & Moreno, we were able to make a kind of Theremin in ten minutes using the light sensor. That convinced me!
It should be noted that I felt a bit exotic with my presentation „Programming for All!“, because I do not run a school or university project, but only with some older people on the basis of interesting computer graphics (digital art or optical illusions) get started in programming. After all, the resulting artefacts were very well received, even at the evening event, where some examples were exhibited.
The conference was quickly over again. My overall impression? With the arrival on Sunday – and actually the departure on Thursday – the conference was unusually long. Monday was the first dinner together. The Night Lectures fortunately took place after dinner (at Cynthia’s Keynote the evening before not only my stomach growled …). They were short all the time, concise, often quite funny and therefore very successful. Joek advertised my book „Codierte Kunst“, Ralf had the funniest slide of the evening and Jadga & Jens rocked the hall with a cheeky closing song. Unfortunately I had to leave on Wednesday and missed the conference dinner, which – also rather unusual – only took place on the closing evening.
Overall, I was impressed by the variety of topics and the quality of the contributions. The level of content is certainly related to the fact that Snap! can be used for very demanding applications.
I would like to thank the organizers for the successful environment. It is to be hoped that the Snap! community will continue to have the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas in a similar setting. Snap! rulez!
Translated with the help of www.DeepL.com/Translator