Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Q and A with Level Up Learning Center (Trinidad and Tobago)

What is Level Up Learning Center (Trinidad and Tobago)?

Level Up Learning Center (Trinidad and Tobago) is a franchise of Canada’s largest tech camps provider. We are dedicated to helping kids from as young as six years old learn, discover and problem solve using today’s technology.

How did the idea to bring this to Trinidad come about?

While the franchise holder was on holiday in Canada with his family, he sought extra-curricular activities for his son to do. Someone suggested this camp. The Tech Camp had a profound impact on the franchise owner’s son and piqued his interest on how everyday things worked. His son no longer became a passive user of technology but a curious mind wanting to learn more. Mr. Khan’s was disheartening to part with the exposure he had over that summer and even tried to negotiate to have the family migrate to Canada. Motivated by his son’s positive experience with tech-education, Mr. Khan promised himself to create every opportunity for his son to learn more.

How can technology help kids learn?

Computer science can benefit kids in the following ways.
  • Problem solving - Coding involves logical thinking which is directly tied into science and math. At Level Up children are taught through a project based approach to learning. These projects involve the use of computer-based learning and science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) to solve problems.
  • Order and sequencing - The sequential and logical thinking involved in coding can contribute to improved reading comprehension skills. The ability to order events in text relates to the skill of the chronological sequencing required in writing code.
  • Curiosity and creativity - Instead of regarding technology as magical, coding promotes the question of “Why?” when thinking about a particular application or game. They quickly learn to connect coding and storytelling, which releases their imaginations and unlocks many possibilities.
  • Career Opportunities - To compete in the global economy of now and the future, students need to possess a comprehensive skill set when it comes to technology. Not knowing how to code in the future may be comparable to not knowing how to read.
What are some of the activities at Level Up?

We offer a variety of activities which suit the age level and the audience we have in a group. These include:
  • Block based coding
  • Programming games
  • Robot programming
  • Introduction to Python, Java, and HTML
  • Digital safety
  • Poster design
  • 3D animation
  • Email
What are some of the technologies used at Level Up?

At Level Up TT we use a variety of technologies to engage and encourage interaction. Some of the items are:
  • Raspberry Pi, which is a complete computer that fits in the palm of your hand. We access Python, Scratch and other learning resources through this device.
  • A variety of robots - Ozobots, MBots and Edison Bots.
  • Little BIts electronics kits - magnetic and colour coded snap on circuits to teach electronics, a key component of robotics.
  • A programmable drone
  • Augmented Reality (AR) kits
Your facebook page also talks about developing life skills. What are some of these life skills?

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, we experience the human disconnect even more. At Level Up we aim to help children cope with mistakes and stress. We utilise seated yoga, breathing exercises, problem solving tasks and games to teach them about self awareness, mindfulness, decision making, problem solving, creative and critical thinking, and building interpersonal relationships.

Do you think tech education should be made mandatory at primary and secondary level just like Maths and English?

Both primary and secondary education should comprise tech education. Too many children use their devices passively because they were not taught how to effectively use them. A tablet is used to look at videos or play games, but do these kids know they can do programming from said devices? While adults may see tech education as just another reason for staring at a screen, they should rethink the benefits listed earlier. A little research would show that logic and sequencing, two core components of writing, are involved throughout programming. Math skills are taught as well when kids learn about graphical axes ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’. Tech education will enhance the lessons taught in other subject areas, making it more applicable to life than an exercise book.

How can we modernise the education system in Trinidad?

If we are to empower the younger generation to find sustainable employment then we are not doing a great job at providing tech education. Our education system is particularly lacking when we consider what is offered around the world. To modernise the education system in Trinidad and Tobago we need to do these things:
  • There must be a proper working computer lab in each school, where a class can sit comfortably, with a maximum of two kids per machine. If secondary kids are being given a laptop, then there should be some way of actually using the laptop in school rather than them being taken home to be hacked, sold or used a doorstops.
  • All teaching staff - trained in HOW to use the computers efficiently and effectively. This way lessons can be taught via software as opposed to board or text book.
  • There should be a movement towards a paperless school. Textbooks are costly, whether provided by the government or parent. In an effort to maximise effective computer usage, soft copies of textbooks should be
  • There should be easier access to programs like ours which encourage kids to think creatively. Knowledge and learning should be fun. We are actually looking for a primary school to run a pilot project with, but most currently do not have a working computer lab.
Anything else you would like to add?

We aim to provide a holistic experience for all in attendance of our programs. For those interested in helping their kids get the upper hand in life, these range of programmes are for you. Regardless of career choice, computers will be a part of it.
You can contact us at hellott@levelupkids.ca or 279-0488 for more information about our program offerings.

Website - levelupkids.ca/trinidad
Facebook - facebook.com/leveluptnt/
Monday, 4 September 2017

24 Things We Should Avoid – A Trinidad Web Developer Perspective

I chose a variety of 20 websites from Trinidad (no names called) and made notes of some of the problems that I found. The aim is that we learn from this and try to not repeat these and any amount of discussion on this would be welcomed. Feel free to contact me if you want me to review your website and online presence. I encourage you to have an independent and critical somebody review your website and online presence. This was just me and a couple of days to write a blog post. Imagine if you paid to do this periodically and it does not have to stop there. I did not look at stuff like sql injection and other types of testing that would require me to get permission. Additionally, more feedback can be given with access to the backend and understanding your aims and objectives.
  1. Password protect our sandbox. The last thing we want is Google linking to our test website and persons using that.
  2. Repetition in the domain name. Why would I create this domain? pizzaexchangett.co.tt. We already know that you are from Trinidad with the .tt. One advice for creating domain names is brevity for sharing and remembering and typing.
  3. Twitter is not Facebook. Do not cross post to Twitter with a link (or only a link) back to Facebook especially exclusively. It is annoying and defeats the purpose and design of Twitter and it makes us look lazy and can’t be bothered especially when words are cut off because of the 140 character limit.
  4. Protect admin and login and private areas with https and other measures like two factor authentication. Rename the admin space if you can e.g. pizzaexchange.co.tt/adminsecure94560/ and restrict access to IP address or through VPN login. Nothing is foolproof but we can aim for more layers of security.
  5. Telephone numbers on our websites should be clickable especially in this mobile first time.
  6. Content should be indexable, searchable, linkable, and mobile friendly. It is ok to have a flip page version of our magazine or content but this should be linked back to our CMS and some flip page platforms allow for these features.
  7. Email addresses that don’t work or contact forms that don’t send me a copy of my message sent and even contact forms without any validation. Contact forms are preferred because they are better at fighting SPAM but email addresses are more convenient. Also contact forms can capture specific information and can feed into workflows. We should schedule periodic reviews of our online spaces and check for broken links, outdated content, invalid email addresses and the likes.
  8. Review our source code for things that the public should not know of. I have seen commented out items that really should not be public and for example should be hidden with server side commenting if you must leave it in the source code. Related - check console and logs for javascript and other errors, client and server side and disable debugging for the public.
  9. Organisations that don’t fart on their social media and other messages. You are horrible. If you don’t want to respond to messages then don’t make it available and state somewhere prominently (or auto respond) that you can only respond to phone calls or whatever channel.
  10. There is no excuse for bad and haphazard design. Too many good design options are available. Utilise independent beta testers, reviewers, focus groups and the likes. What would your 10 year old techie nephew say about your website? And related, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity or cost or whatever especially when we know that we can afford quality.
  11. Stock photos that do not represent your audience. Again it makes us look lazy, can’t be bothered, not serious and it is a distraction and detached from our reality. If you are selling mortgages then I want to see a Trinidad house in a Trinidad setting with Trinidad looking people. The marketing people can probably explain this better than me but it seems the obvious thing to do.
  12. URLs should be friendly for SEO and users - http://pizzaexchangett.co.tt/contact-us instead of http://pizzaexchangett.co.tt/?p=1234
  13. Social media share buttons especially twitter that only includes the link and not the title and even the twitter handle. These types of things can be discovered when we properly test all aspects of our websites.
  14. Indiscriminate use of hashtags and hashtags that add little value.
  15. Things just don’t work which tells me that proper testing was not done and also are they getting any feedback that things don’t work? I forget, they are too important to respond to their social media messages and could not be bothered. I visited a big government ministry website. The menu apart from having too many things in it just doesn’t work on mobile and parts of it are not accessible on desktop. Mind you, this is their new website that took them months to develop. On that same website there is no paging on search results and the search is showing items from another domain that is no longer online. How can you miss obvious things like this if proper testing was done? It might be better to have a small and manageable website (at least to start with) if that is all that you can handle and don’t bulk copy content when selecting what is relevant and needed just takes a little more effort.
  16. Search for your organisation and related terms and see what shows up. I once searched for a company and Google had it tagged as being hacked. Also, if you have switched domains then develop a simple redirect from the old domain to the new domain. Related - Claim your business on Google Business.
  17. We are in 2017 and you still have © 2010 on your website? Why? I read that copyright notice is not required but it can deter persons from snipping your content without permission. Why not make it dynamic?
  18. A common practice in other places is to purchase related domains and mispellings. I don’t see that happening in Trinidad. If you are a big brand I think you can afford to do this and if the amount of traffic to those related domains are enough then you can justify keeping them.
  19. Don’t just copy and paste formatted text. Spend a few minutes and copy the unformatted text and format properly and consistently for your website. The amount of garbage markup that gets copied if for example you just copy from a Word document.
  20. If you developed an app, why is your app listed in the app store under someone’s name and not your organisation?
  21. A logo is not a sign. A logo is very simple and very basic and easily recognisable. Your logo does not have to include your company name. Related - don’t forget to include your own favicon for your website.
  22. Don’t flood your homepage and website structure with tons of items that means the pages take long to load. Encourage website visitors to use your search to find what they are looking for. Emphasise search and make it obvious. Visitors should also know that they can contact you if they cannot find what they are looking for.
  23. Avoid this date format 09/01/2017. Remember your website is open to the world. Is this the 9th of January or the 1st of September?
  24. Preview image when sharing should match the image from the article firstly or no image or a geneic placeholder if the article has no images. This especially applies to media houses.
I will follow-up with things I like and that I think others can emulate from looking at some other local websites. Positive feedback gives encouragement and let’s us know what we should keep doing. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.