Resources for year 6 teachers on coding and programming

I have been introducing some year 6 (UK) teachers to coding by showing them how to lay out a simple web page by writing HTML. I promised I would find some links to resources for them, so here it is:

HTML and JavaScript

My examples of how to write HTML are at github.com/andybalaam/html-examples

There are several web sites that allow you to experiment with writing HTML and JavaScript and seeing the results immediately:

I also made some videos about how to make a snowflake animation in both JavaScript and Scratch here: Snowflake Christmas card.

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a cheap education-focussed computer that looks like a piece of circuit board the size of a credit card.

Their educational resources are at: raspberrypi.org/resources.

There are lots of great videos about how to do different things with the Raspberry Pi, including the ones by The Raspberry Pi Guy.

There are also my (boring, but comprehensive) videos teaching you to write a simple game in Python, from a starting point of no programming experience at all: My First Raspberry Pi Game.

Graphical programming

There are several tools and sites for learning programming by dragging and dropping blocks instead of typing code:

  • Scratch – creative, unguided, a bit old-fashined looking but tried-and-trusted
  • code.org – fun, attractive guided tasks featuring Disney characters, Minecraft etc.
  • blockly – guided tasks with good progression
  • codeforlife.education – I’ve not used this, but it looks like it could have potential

Other languages

Setting up a sane Maven project

Today I have spent hours trying to get wrangle Maven into letting me set up a sane Java project. The hardest parts were enforcing warnings-as-errors, and getting Maven to shut up a bit.

Some code that warns

My first problem was writing some Java code that causes the compiler to emit warnings. For some reason I can’t understand, my Java 1.8 compiler was not emitting warnings (even with -Xlint:all) for unused variables, use of deprecated methods, or unknown @SuppressWarnings types (suggestions from SO 1752607).

Instead, I had to use an unnecessary cast:

$ cat src/tast/java/ExampleTest.java
public class ExampleTest {
    public void warn() {
        String fixmePlease = (String)"Hello";
    }
}

Now, finally, I got a warning:

$ javac -Xlint:all src/test/ExampleTest.java
src/test/ExampleTest.java:3: warning: [cast] redundant cast to String
        String s = (String) "Hello!";
                   ^
1 warning

Maven compiler settings for warnings-as-errors

I tried a vast set of combinations of properties like maven.compiler.failOnWarning and maven.compiler.fork (as specified in the maven compiler plugin docs) before giving up on properties. Making a property called maven.compiler.failOnWarning seems to have no effect whatsoever, ever.

So I decided I must try the (very verbose) plugin tag containing a configuration tag, as also specified in the maven compiler plugin docs. After a lot of messing about with flags that seemed incompatible, and Maven silently ignoring things it didn’t understand, I came to a working config.

On the way, I discovered that setting the “fork” property to true is a non-starter, because Maven simply drops the compiler output in that case, meaning you can’t see what is going wrong when it does.

Finally, I had a pom file like this:

cat pom.xml
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<project xmlns="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://maven.apache.org/POM/4.0.0 http://maven.apache.org/maven-v4_0_0.xsd">
    <modelVersion>4.0.0</modelVersion>
    <groupId>com.example</groupId>
    <artifactId>Example</artifactId>
    <packaging>jar</packaging>
    <version>0.0.1</version>
    <properties>
        <project.build.sourceEncoding>UTF-8</project.build.sourceEncoding>
    </properties>
    <build>
        <plugins>
            <plugin>
                <groupId>org.apache.maven.plugins</groupId>
                <artifactId>maven-compiler-plugin</artifactId>
                <version>3.6.0</version>
                <configuration>
                    <source>1.8</source>
                    <target>1.8</target>
                    <failOnWarning>true</failOnWarning>
                    <showWarnings>true</showWarnings>
                    <compilerArgs>
                        <arg>-Xlint:all</arg>
                    </compilerArgs>
                </configuration>
            </plugin>
        </plugins>
    </build>
     <dependencies>
         <dependency>
             <groupId>junit</groupId>
             <artifactId>junit</artifactId>
             <version>4.12</version>
             <scope>test</scope>
         </dependency>
     </dependencies>
</project>

Which manages successfully to tell the compiler to show all warnings, and to fail when it sees one. (Thanks to SO 9192613, among others.)

I dare not change anything, for fear that it will stop working again without any explanation.

Quieting Maven

If you tell Maven to be quiet with -q or -e it will merrily fail the build because of a warning, but not tell you what the warning was.

Maven does not appear to have a command line option to set the log level to display warnings and errors only, but you can force it to do so by setting the environment variable MAVEN_OPTS like this:

MAVEN_OPTS=MAVEN_OPTS=-Dorg.slf4j.simpleLogger.defaultLogLevel=warn mvn clean test-compile

(Thanks to SO 4782089.)

And, with some guesswork (partly based on Configuring Maven) I found that if I put something similar in .mvn/jvm.config I didn’t have to type it every time:

$ cat .mvn/jvm.config 
-Dorg.slf4j.simpleLogger.defaultLogLevel=warn

Failing on warnings, and seeing them!

I don’t know whether to feel triumphant or defeated, but, it works!

$ mvn clean test-compile 
[WARNING] COMPILATION WARNING : 
[WARNING] src/test/java/ExampleTest.java:[3,20] redundant cast to java.lang.String
[ERROR] COMPILATION ERROR : 
[ERROR] src/test/java/ExampleTest.java: warnings found and -Werror specified
[ERROR] Failed to execute goal org.apache.maven.plugins:maven-compiler-plugin:3.6.0:testCompile (default-testCompile) on project unmatcheddrrepair: Compilation failure
[ERROR] src/test/java/ExampleTest.java: warnings found and -Werror specified
[ERROR] -> [Help 1]
[ERROR] 
[ERROR] To see the full stack trace of the errors, re-run Maven with the -e switch.
[ERROR] Re-run Maven using the -X switch to enable full debug logging.
[ERROR] 
[ERROR] For more information about the errors and possible solutions, please read the following articles:
[ERROR] [Help 1] http://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/MAVEN/MojoFailureException

I wish I could suppress double-reporting of the error, and the extra rubbish at the end (and the super-long absolute paths of each file that push the actual errors off the side of the screen), but at this point, I must try and do what I was trying to do in the first place.

Guess how much I am liking Maven at this point.

Writing a unit test in Elm

Series: Snake in Elm, Elm makes me happy, Elm Basics, Elm Unit Test

I’ve been having fun with Elm programming recently. Elm is a replacement for JavaScript that is pure functional and highly practical.

Here’s how to go from nothing installed at all to writing a unit test that passes, in just over 10 minutes.

The source code is here: github.com/andybalaam/elm-unit-test-example

How to write a programming language – Part 3, The Evaluator

Series: Lexer, Parser, Evaluator.

Finally, we get onto the actual magic of the little language I wrote (Cell) – the evaluator, which takes in syntax trees and finds their real value, in the context of the “environment”: the symbols that are defined around it.

Slides: How to write a programming language – Part 3, The Evaluator

If you want to, you can Support me on Patreon.

How to write a programming language – Part 2, The Parser

Series: Lexer, Parser, Evaluator

My little programming language, Cell (Cell Elementary Learning Language) is designed to be simple. I want to use it to explain how to write a programming language. The parser is only 81 lines long, so hopefully it’s not too hard to understand.

Here’s the explanation of the parser, which is the second part of a compiler or interpreter.

Slides: How to write a programming language – Part 2, The Parser

If you want to, you can Support me on Patreon.