Yousrc – introduction

yousrc logo

Yousrc

Yousrc is an online resource that promises to teach programming skills by building simple programs that can easily be played on an android mobile phone via their own yousrc app.  Now I finally have an android phone with a large enough screen (touch wood!) I can have a play and try this out properly.

simple yousrc code

simple program

The resource contains many features useful to schools, including the ability to register as a teacher and then register your own students and provide them with their logins and monitor their accounts without having to go via students’ email addresses.  It also promises that all apps are moderated before publishing and therefore child-friendly, and this goes for all resources and forum posts as well.  I’m not sure how they would maintain that on a much larger scale, but for now all this is available for free, with an optional paid version offering more online space, more support and more teaching/learning resources.

Currently if you have students registered within your school they submit apps for your approval.  If you approve them, they then go to a member of the yousrc team for further checking, before they are published and available to anyone.  The site features some projects if you wish to see the sorts of things that have been produced.  This is an example game made by the project’s owner.

I’ll be starting by working through the teachers’ resources available from the site.  There are six lessons available to teachers, which take you from creating your first “Hello World” program to displaying, moving and bouncing an image, plus using input via mouse and adding sound effects.  These promise to introduce the basic programming structures: loops, if statements, functions, global and local variables etc.  By the end of the sixth lesson the student will have written a program that has a logo moving around the screen, making a sound as it bounces off the edges and stopping and ending the app if the logo is clicked on.

Yousrc uses its own language, ELC, and all sourcecode for published apps is freely available.  It makes use of the Java runtime environment.  Code is written into the browser, in an editing window which can be run fullscreen if preferred.  Code is colour coded for ease of understanding, and there is a built-in checker to pick up syntax errors.  Apps can then be run onscreen from the editor, and you can optionally see all variable values as the app is run.

a program to animate the logo

animating a logo

Running apps on your mobile phone entails installing the free yousrc android app and then logging in with your details.  You can then access all your apps, published or unpublished, or look at other published apps, although I couldn’t find a search feature and I found the main app rather slow to respond at times and very difficult to work with.  There is a search feature on the main website, however.

One issue could well be the difference between designing an app with mouse input and with touchscreen input, so I’ll be looking into how that is handled.  When an app is played on the phone, a touch pad appears at the right of it with arrow keys and a space key, or there is the option to switch to motion sensors.  I found dragging my finger onscreen had the same effect that moving the mouse would have done on the computer version of the game.

First impressions are that there is a lot of support available for this tool, and the language I’ve used so far is straightforward and recognisable, but it will take more experience before I really see what the software is capable of and how far students are likely to be able to take it.  There is also the issue of how different the language is from any of the standard languages, so again I’ll be looking at that as I proceed.  I’ve found nothing wildly different so far, however.

I hit a few technical problems with my system to start with, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that as I go on as well: one essential requirement for software for learning is that it is stable, but in my case it could well have been a browser add-on causing problems.

This is tougher to get going with than App Inventor, but it does look and feel a lot more like proper coding, and I suspect the learning would be more intensive (which is both good and bad, depending on circumstances!).  The selling point for me is being able to see your own work on your mobile phone, so I’ll be revisiting at some point soon to move on a little further.

 

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