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Part IV: Coding & Communication

Coming up with creative ideas is a fantastic skill that can be used to solve problems, develop new products, the list goes on! In this series, we’ve already seen how we can use coding to express some creative ideas. However, learning how to explain those ideas to others so that they’re easy to understand is a whole other skill entirely, and a very important one too!

We’re all about teamwork at Kidovation, so ensuring that we know how to communicate our ideas to others is a big part of what we do. Who would have thought that coding could help us learn how to communicate clearly? Well our next transferrable skill in our coding series is…

Transferrable skill #4: Communicating an idea

We all know the power of a good story. In fact, you can even take professional training to learn how to tell a story well. Here is a typical template to prepare a good story:

When telling a story, you often need to set a scene, introduce key characters, describe what happened to them, and explain what they achieved or what has changed in the end. Throughout the storytelling, you should also bear in mind who your audience is and how you expect them to react to your story.

Coding in many ways resembles storytelling. When writing something with code, you need to set up an environment (“setting the scene”), name key variables and assign them values (“introducing the key characters”), write up how the variables interact (“what happened to them”), and state what our result needs to be (“what they achieved”). Similarly, you need to bear in mind who the outcome is aimed at (“the audience”) and how you expect them to react (“their reaction”).

Thinking about coding and storytelling like this shows us that success in both comes down to communication, and how you articulate your ideas. Keeping track of your environment, key variables, interactions, results and aims (in code and in a story) will ensure that your idea is clear, concise and easy for others to understand!

Reflection activity:

Imagine you want to use coding to create a colour-changing alien on a computer screen. Whenever you click on the little alien, it changes to a completely different random colour. Now let’s tell the story in this way:

What is the environment? Let’s say we use the p5.js editor environment.

Who is the key character? An alien (in a nice colour).

What happened to the alien, and what did it achieve? If you use your mouse to click on the alien, it changes its colour – actually, a random colour that we can’t know in advance!

(And of course, the alien won’t change its colour if you don’t click on it or if you click on the blank space on the screen.)

Stretch activity:

To bring the story above to life, you can copy our example code (http://bit.do/colour_changing_alien) in your editor (remember to delete the default code in it first).

Can you see the colour changing effect if you click on the alien?

Which lines of code made this happen?

Now imagine you’d created the alien above in a team but hadn’t communicated to your team that the alien should change colour when you click on it. Your team members would be very confused and might even think the code you wrote was broken.

By communicating ideas clearly, we ensure that everyone on a team is on the same page. Coding is a great way to learn communication skills because computers (unlike people) can’t fill in the gaps, so we must be very clear with what we tell them to do in our code.

That’s it for this week’s Kidovation coding series. We’ll be taking a break for a week as we reflect on what we’ve learnt thus far. But don’t worry, we’ll be back very soon with your next transferrable skill!

- Dr Christine Yu & Lexi Hayden

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