The little deeds that 2DIY did
It was a few more years ago than we are going to admit, but I walked past the 2Simple BETT stand and saw a demonstration of a new application (we didn’t even call them that back then) and within a minute, after I had picked myself up off the floor, I had a copy in my hand. On CD. As things were of yore.
The 2DIY infection spreads
This was exactly what I had been looking for. What Neil Canin and co at 2Simple had created was the answer to questions I had been struggling with for sometime. I wanted my pupils to make computer games and learn how to code but at the time the only tools I knew were in no way suited to primary teaching.
What followed in my North London primary school was a quiet revolution.. When I demonstrated to Year 4 how to make platform games using 2DIYs paint tools and drag and drop perfection, you could almost hear the cogs in their little minds whirring. I’ve never seen a class so sucked up into what they were doing. Having spent weeks on a diet of digital art and presentations this was like a sudden feast of sweet and sickly delights. Then, as the weeks progressed, partly because word had got around on the playground tom-toms and partly because I’m just an excited big kid myself, most year groups were suddenly off the programme of study (It was ICT, apparently it wasn’t that good anyway) and immersed in the great game making challenge.
It was their inherent understanding of the computer game conventions that shouldn’t have surprised me. A demonstration of a platform game I called Spring, spawned several copies – ‘Son of Spring’, ‘Spring the Revenge’, ‘Spring in Space’ etc as if they had already in Year 4 attended master classes on the power of branding. Levels were built without me even having to explain how they should look, by subtle building of complexity or changing context and theme: (“This is the Extreme Decimation level, Sir”).
We had a lot of fun. (And we worked out all the unintentional glitches and how to get round them).
DIY computational thinking
But the revolution was not the sudden ability of all my pupils to create interactive games using 2Simple’s trademark simplistic tools, no. The magic was we weren’t doing ICT anymore. This was not a research project, a presentation, a database or any of the ‘slop bucket’ use of ICT to support the curriculum. This was problem solving where obstacles should be and debugging objects that interacted and carefully sequencing things. This was a million miles away from the rest of the school day and it was such an electric experience it opened my eyes to how IT lessons could in fact be and led to my championing of the computing curriculum as it arrived.
2DIY to 2AWOL
The sad fact is that 2DIY fell out of favour with people who should have known better. Yes, there was no coding involved and yes, it was a design tool more than a programming tool, but its critics should have looked past the fuzzy brush tool to realise that 2DIY was complete exercise in computational thinking and for that coding is not required. This is a computer science teaching tool, not a coding teaching tool. 2DIY’s strength was that there are no blocks of code to distract you from the tinkering, debugging and logical reasoning required to perfect your game. 2Simple answered critics with 2Code but it was years later before I saw anything that could engage reception in the essence of computing in the same way that the 2DIY ‘snake’ game building tool did.
It’s still available, there’s even an app, but I still don’t feel it has anywhere near the recognition it deserves as an important part of the evolving way we teach our pupils to solve problems and get creative with technology. Thank you Neil and 2Simple.