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Crowd-Scratching with DirectPoll

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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To celebrate Scratch Day 2016, UniUrb has developed a simple .NET application, called DirectPollMonitor, to allow the audience of a webinar to control a Scratch project in real time. DirectPollMonitor takes in input the URL of the result page of a poll made by DirectPoll. Each option of the poll is associated with a specific keypress event on the computer in which the app executes, so that every time the option is voted the corresponding keypress event is generated. By default, the keypress events associated with the first 26 options correspond to keys ‘a’ to ‘z’, while all subsequent options (if any) are associated with the ‘space’ key. DirectPoll ‘stop/reset’, ‘pause’, and ‘play’ events are mapped onto keys ‘0’, ‘1’, and ‘2’.

When the program executes, keypress events are treated as if they were generated by the local keyboard and received by the focus window.

This provides a very simple and general mechanism to grant collective control of any Scratch project to an arbitrary number of people taking part to an instant poll.

To use DirectPollMonitor:

  • 1. Download the DirectPollMonitor archive (requires .NET 4.5.2)
  • 2. Extract DirectPollMonitor into a local folder of your choice
  • 3. Open a Command Prompt on that folder
  • 4. Launch the DirectPollMonitor from command line using as a parameter the URL of the DirectPoll result page
  • 5. Start the DirectPoll and invite the audience to vote
  • 6. Change the keyboard focus to the Scratch project


In order to make sure that all keypress events are properly received by the Scratch project, it is recommended that the window in which the Scratch project executes keeps the keyboard focus for the entire duration of the poll. Hence, it is better to control the poll from a different computer, while leaving in background the Command Prompt Terminal in which DirectPollMonitor executes.

A standard poll has been created for testing purposes. It has only 5 options associated with keys A, B, C, D, and E. Hence, it can be used to control any Scratch project designed to react to these keypress events.

Provide this link to the audience:

Pass this URL to DirectPollMonitor:

Use this simple Scratch project reacting to keys A, B, and C to test the remote control: (the name of the project has been typed by the audience…).

DirectPollMonitor was tested for the first time on ScratchDay 2016 during a public webinar attended by many Italian School teachers with their pupils. Several Scratch projects were developed during the webinar and controlled in real time by more than 100 people. Here is the video log.

Sources files to be published on GitHub.

University credits for certificates

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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The University of Urbino awards 1 credit to students who enrol to Applied Computer Science for Academic Year 2015/2016 having already obtained certificates signed by their School teachers. This initiative is aimed at contributing to the early development of computational thinking skills, by encouraging secondary schools to adopt instruments as proposed by Ministry of Education and Consorzio CINI with the “Programma il Futuro” initiative.

The University of Urbino has always worked together with schools to provide early learning opportunities based on playful and intuitive methods: It has took part since the first editions to Computer Science Education Week and Europe Code Week, it has launched the Code’s Cool learning community, it led the Italian participation to Europe Code Week 2014 with CodeWeek ambassador Alessandro Bogliolo, and it’s now offering a MOOC to support school teachers who want to adopt instruments.

This initiative gives to Italian schools the opportunity to take their students to conquest their first university credit!

The introductory course of offers approximately 20 hours of playful interactive activities which introduce the main coding principles, contributing to the development of computational thinking and problem solving skills. The MOOC completes the course by showing how to put the concepts into practice to develop original mobile applications. School teachers can directly manage a virtual classroom, which gives them the online instruments to monitor and certify the progress of their pupils. The certificate of completion will be recognized by the University of Urbino in case of enrollment.

The credit that will be recognized is deserved – says Alessandro Bogliolo, coordinator of the School of Information Science and Technology of the University of Urbino – Students who enrol to a University degree program having already developed basic computational thinking skills are predisposed to learning computer science, are fully aware of the meaning and power of coding, and they are familiar with visual programming tools and teaching methods that are complementary and preparatory to academic study.

People who is no longer at school can take advantage of the MOOC individually by registering to the virtual class directly managed by Alessandro Bogliolo, who will certify the completion. Certification will be recognized in case of enrollment to the Laurea degree program in Applied Computer Science, delivered both on campus and at the distance.

Additional information can be requested at


Coding is the Language of Smart Things

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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There are plenty of objects around us that have become “smart” thanks to an embedded microprocessor which is able to understand and execute instructions. All these things need to be programmed in order to know what to do. Coding skills make us able to speak the language of things.

Coding is the fastest and the simplest way to make our ideas come true.

It is recognized that coding stimulates creative thinking.

Creativity is the key for competitiveness.

Based on these simple premises, the Young Advisors Group at the European Commission, together with Vice President Neelie Kroes, have launched the Europe Code Week initiative, aimed at granting the opportunity of approaching coding to as many young people as possible.

The degree program in Applied Computer Science of the University of Urbino is working with the Italian Ministry of Education to organize, promote, and coordinate the events that will take place in Italy from October 11 to October 17, 2014.