How I ended up making MachineLearningForKids

October 29th, 2017

I write a lot about what I’m doing with machine learning for kids, but in this post, I want to share a little about how I ended up doing it and why.

I tend to write about *what* I’ve done. I rarely write how things happened though, or what made me do them. I just assume that people would be less interested in that.

But, if I think about what I find interesting, it tends to be the backstory to projects. To use Nick as an example, I’ve seen him give loads of talks about Node-RED. And I’ve enjoyed the ones where he talks about how Node-RED happened more than where he gives demos of what Node-RED is.

Inspired by that, I thought I should at least try to capture a few breadcrumbs for how I ended up where I am now with machinelearningforkids.co.uk.

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Can computers be creative?

October 25th, 2017

from: https://tv.theiet.org/?videoid=10995

Kids at barcamp

October 19th, 2017

I’ve been a fan of barcamps for a while, and have been going to any that I can for at least ten years.

In recent years, I’ve encouraged my kids to come along with me, and in the spirit of barcamp, to think of something they could bring to share or talk about.

Grace did a talk about her experiences being taught ICT at primary school at Barcamp Berkshire in 2013.

Grace did a demo of how kids are taught to do sums in school today at Barcamp Bournemouth in 2014.

Faith did a talk about owls (and chatbots) at Barcamp Southampton in 2016.

Last Saturday, it was Barcamp Southampton again, and Faith decided to run a session.

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This time, she chose to do a ukulele lesson.

2017-10-14+07.58.00.heic

We borrowed a car boot-full of ukuleles from Hampshire Music Service. (We owe them a big thanks!)

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She set up the room with a ukulele on every seat for everyone who came to her session.

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And she’d made a few PowerPoint slides with finger patterns on to help get people started.

Before too long, she had a bunch of adults (who’d never played ukulele before!) strumming along, leading us all as we echoed her strumming patterns. We sounded okay by the end!

I was super proud of her. There is no way I’d have been brave enough to try it when I was her age.

And, like her sister, it was a more creative and fun idea for a talk than the usual stand-in-front-of-slides-and-talk sessions that I always do.


Machine Learning for Kids event at Hursley

August 30th, 2017

On Tuesday, a couple of dozen children (aged 8-14) spent the afternoon at Hursley so I could give them an intro to machine learning using some of the activities I’ve written for machinelearningforkids.co.uk.

I think it went pretty well, so I thought it’d be good to share what we did.


This was what the room looked like before the kids arrived… with just my two kids helping me set up. It all got a lot busier after this!

The general approach was letting them all work at computers, guided by a worksheet to build something that illustrated an aspect of machine learning. And then following this with a group discussion to draw out what they observed and what it meant.

We did this all together for the first couple of activities. Because of the large age range in the group, after this I let them split up and tackle different activities at different speeds, and followed this up by discussing their projects with them in smaller groups.

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MachineLearningForKids.co.uk

August 2nd, 2017

I’d like to introduce “Machine Learning for Kids“: a tool to help school children learn about machine learning by making things with it.

The video above is a walkthrough of the tool and examples of how I’ve been using it. The rest of this post is a transcript for the video.

machinelearningforkids.co.uk is a simple tool for training a variety of types of machine learning model, and an environment for creating games and other interactive projects that use them.

This is done by extending Scratch: a visual programming environment created to teach coding to kids, that is widely used in schools and other educational organisations like Code Club and Girls Who Code.

It gives students a blank canvas without prescribing what they make. They’re free to use their imagination and creativity to find fun uses for the machine learning models that they train.

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Introducing Machine Learning to kids

July 4th, 2017

Today, I was helping out with a Computing summer school for teachers in London.

As part of this, I gave a presentation about machine learning to a room full of school teachers – about what it is, why I think we should be introducing it in the classroom, and how I think we could do that.

My slides are on Slideshare, but they might not make a lot of sense by themselves, so I’ll jot down here roughly what I said.

slide 1

This morning I want to talk to you about machine learning. In particular, I want to talk with you about machine learning in the context of education and how it could be introduced in the classroom.

slide 2

I’m going to try and cover three main points.

Firstly, a quick level set on what I mean by machine learning.
Then I’d like to talk about why I believe it’s important that we do this.
Finally, I want to talk about the practicalities of how we could effectively introduce machine learning in an accessible way.

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weatherbot

April 23rd, 2017

TJBot is an open-source do-it-yourself kit for building a small Raspberry-Pi-powered robot.

Building

In the Easter holidays, we spent an afternoon building it…

…and wiring it…

This gave us a tiny plastic robot with a light in his head, and an arm that can rotate back and forth. He sits on the kitchen shelf next to the Alexa.

This weekend, we tried doing something with it.

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I-Spy (using Watson services from Scratch projects)

February 22nd, 2017

It’s half-term week, so that means more time for geekiness with the kids.

This is something Grace made this week: a game of “I spy” built using Scratch, that uses the Watson Vision Recognition API to let the game dynamically pick objects that it recognises in photos, so you can then make guesses.

Apart from being a fun game to make in it’s own right, I wanted to share why I particularly think it’s useful to be able to use Watson API’s from Scratch projects.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 13.43.53

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