Reddit AMA session highlights

Last week our team went to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything session. We received some very interesting questions so we thought about keeping them here on our blog so others can benefit from the insights. You can always check the original thread here if you are interested on the full session.

Q: How do you make sure that the "user experience" is a "learning experience?"

What makes our experience a learning experience? First of all, we think that learning isn't a goal in and of itself, enjoyable though it can be. Learning is a means of empowerment. When you learn more, you can do more. And ultimately what gets me excited is making makers. Showing people, step by step at first, that technology isn't unapproachable and impenetrable and reserved for the elite few with years of education, but imminently understandable and of course very powerful to be able to ride the "bicycle of the mind".

Now, you might ask "how do you know if you've done it?" To me, the best indicator is emergence. Emergence is a word we toss around a lot around Kano, and we are tremendously inspired by the work of folks like Bret Victor. We also talk about the "Macaroni and Cheese" test. Let's say you teach a beginner how to cook. At the end if all they can do is follow the recipe on a box of (delicious) Kraft Mac & Cheese, it's hard to say if they know how to cook. However, if they can take the ingredients and create something new, their own "invention", that's the moment we strive for with code.

Check out the fascinating things our community is building at Kano World and build your own creation with Kano Code. /Luke & Mike

Q: What is your pedagogical backing for the way you teach kids how to code?

Pedagogical backing we think a lot about pedagogy, especially as it evolves. We have a number of former teachers and folks from the ed tech industry on the team, and we are watching closely as the teaching standards evolve. It's really interesting to see the median age of computer science education drop. In my era (I'm in my late 30's) next to no one started learning to code until they were in University.

Nowadays my kids are starting at age 7. As you can imagine, the standards are new and rapidly evolving for these beginners (e.g. in the UK). We're excited to be a part of the move to bring computational thinking to very young people, folks without a rigorous mathematical background, and beginners of all ages and all walks of life. /Luke & Mike

Q: Your IDE UI looks very similar to the old Lego mind storm IDE, did this ease of programming help inspire the development of your IDE?

What was it like approaching Raspberry Pi with your idea and how has that partnership been?

Ease of programming with systems like Mindstorms, Scratch and others was a huge factor in the design of our IDE. These systems are often talked about as having a “low floor” – making it easy for anyone to get started, and a “high ceiling” – extensive enough that more complex ideas can be explored without hitting up against the system limits.

We believe in creative computing for all, and we’ve seen that spending the first few hour or so of coding making syntax mistakes or hunting for a typo can put beginners off ever coming back to try for a second hour. Our system is built on top of Google’s Blockly, which outputs javascript to control the new kits, or create on-screen apps that can be shared across the web. Code blocks have a couple of big advantages. They’re tangible, in a library, on the screen: you don’t need to memorise an API to be able to code.

They have affordance, so you get some hints about what should connect where. They let you focus on the logic, structure and principles of what the code does, rather than just how it’s written.
We’re always developing the IDE, and sit in on lots of workshops and user tests to see whether it’s easy to get starter with (low floor), whether it allows for emergence beyond the challenges we’ve designed (high ceilings), and – most importantly – to see whether people have fun with it.
/Mike

Q: What kind of success or impact have you seen from your kits and coding efforts? It's great that you've started this project, but has it made a difference?

In 86 countries now over a hundred thousand people of all ages are making their own computers & code creations with Kano – they’ve shared almost 20 million lines so far.

In Sierra Leone, a teenager, Kelvin Doe, turned his Kano into a radio station.

In Berlin, a family made a timelapse flower cam to capture the spring bloom.

In Lebanon, children of Syrian refugees have had the opportunity to reestablish their technological education by building their first computers with us.

In Kenya and Uganda, we focus on empowering young girls.

In Kosovo, a girl hooked it up to a solar array.
In Ohio, Patrick (who said he could never draw) became one of our community’s heroes, creating gorgeous fractals, paintings, and landscapes with Javascript.

We’ve become the most crowdfunded ed-tech project ever when you add in our recent campaign – which takes coding out into the physical world, through photos, music, and demystified data.

Obligatory celeb shoutout – we’ve been endorsed by Steve Wozniak, Jimmy Wales, Marc Benioff, Nile Rodgers – even supermodel Karlie Kloss built a computer with us – and big-time mayors, Mike Bloomberg (NYC) and more raced to build Kano computers to prove their city’s mettle.

Overall, the impact we aim to have boils down to the experience of the first kid who ever built our early, hand-folded prototype, with a ring-binded book. Khalid, 9, said, “You know… Adults think we’re a bit incapable. But today, we built a computer, and brought it to life with this, like, Matrix code.” headscratch headscratch “So that makes us super-children!”

We believe that this is the first generation whose creative powers will exceed ours while they’re still kids. They just need some simple tools and stories to get started. /Alex

Q: What are your plans for upgrading to Raspberry Pi 3 and offering a "powerup kit" for existing Pi 2 users?

We decided not to release a Powerup for the Pi 3, but the good news is that with a simple hack you can upgrade your kit to fit in your existing case! We'll create a post on our helpcentre to show you how. /Mathew

Q: Will the hardware and OS you developed be open to hacking. Can someone SSH into it, install their own things, etc. Similar to how can be done with PI

We're absolutely going to keep the new hardware / OS open and hackable. The new kits will run Linux and a node server. You'll be able to SSH into them, or just open a socket and send them commands. All the things you'd expect from a modern Linux single board computer. /Mike

Q: I’m curious to know what kind of tracking you do on your users once they start using their computer Kit?

The main thing we are interested in is to understand our users' behaviour to try and make it as easy as we can for them to go through our educational content. We look at things like how often does an average user use our kits and how long for to tailor our content to their behaviour.
As with all products and services that collect data, there are a number of data protection regulations that we have to follow. We have to be very careful with data collection and do things such as anonymising the data we capture (e.g. we make sure we don't capture any Personally Identifiable Information), and generally only track things we need to improve our products and the experience for our users. /Vincent

If you have any other questions for our team feel free to ask them on the thread!