Pi And Mash Library Techy Day #PiAndMash

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A couple of weeks ago I attended Pi and Mash, which was a Mashed Libraries techy event at Senate House Library in London. It’s been a while since the last Mashed Libraries event, so I was really looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I could only stay for the morning session, but during that time I did get to run a workshop, which was primarily focused on Pocket Code and how easy it is to get ideas up and running quickly with it. Pocket Code is a visual programming tool for Android devices that is primarily aimed at teaching children the basics of programming and is closely based on Scratch by MIT. Most of the coding is done by dragging blocks around the screen and changing the data in them. It’s very flexible too and you can get working results from it within a few minutes – see this video for a compass app which was created in one minute.

It’s a programming tool I really enjoy using because, as I said it is so easy to use, and if you’ve got an idea for a program you want to try out you can easily prototype something within an hour. I ran through the basics of the system, including how to:

  • Create and edit programs
  • Find programs written by others to see how they work and tweak them for yourself
  • Work with the different coloured code blocks for different type of actions within the program eg orange blocks control the flow of the program; blue ones control the movement of objects on the screen; purple ones are for audio

The Pocket Code app itself is pretty much self-contained. From it you can do all of the above and also link to help screens, tutorials and upload and share you programs directly to the Pocket Code site.

I also put together a few rough ideas for how people in a library setting could use the app, including a Dewey quiz (match the image on the screen to the correct Dewey classification); a Pong-style version of the quiz; and Quiet please (it uses an audio sensor on your Android device to trigger a “Quiet please” message if it gets too loud). The aim was just to give people an idea of what they could put together with it.

Pocket Code presentation

Following on from this we also talked about other easy to use tools that people could use to create programs or manipulate/share data in various ways and we chatted a bit about Yahoo Pipes (it wouldn’t be a Mashed Libraries event without a mention of it) and ifttt.com.

I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but as I followed the Twitter event hashtag through the day I could tell there was a buzz and that lots of attendees at the wide range of sessions were keen to try out new ideas once they got back to their workplaces.

Well done to Ka-Ming, Simon and Andrew for organising it. They get bonus points too for arranging for a 3D printer to be at the event as well.

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Dewey Invaders Project

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A while ago I thought it would be a ridiculous idea to create a game called Dewey Invaders. In this game the player would be presented with a subject heading and also a series of Dewey numbers, one of which is related to the subject heading. The player would then shoot down the Dewey number that the subject heading referred to. If they shot down the wrong Dewey number they would be sternly corrected by the father Dewey ship. It is a “What’s the point?” idea, but I also think it would be a great training tool for game minded classifiers. In fact, with cataloguing and classification being dropped from so many library courses it might be the most cost effective way to train classifiers. I could sell it as an app (even though I hate the word app). What’s the going rate for an app these days? 59p! Oh, that’s the rate for a good app! You can have this for 7.5p then.
It’s not as dull as it sounds, you know! I’d put the numbers into the shape of aliens & have explosions in 3 vibrant colours. 😉 What do you mean- it still isn’t enticing?
It might sound like a daft idea, but I actually think it would keep me up-to-date with my Dewey. I’m partly a cataloguer/classifier, but most of the time I don’t need to add Dewey to records. I just need to know that a number that’s been added to a record is okay and because I enjoy the challenge and style of retro arcade games this would be a way of learning something useful while playing.
I don’t mind what I zap- It’s just pixels on a screen, so it might as well be pixels in the shape of Dewey numbers!