Countdown to Xmas with Santa Tracker
Written by Janet Swift   
Sunday, 03 December 2017

Santa Trackers, from Norad and Google have become part of the Christmas tradition and both of them have now started their countdown to Christmas Eve when Santa takes off from the North Pole to deliver presents around the globe.

Once Santa and his reindeer take off on December 24th you can track their progress. But you'll miss most of the fun if you want until then. Google's Santa's Village and Norad's games Arcade has a new mini-game being unlocked every day from December 1st through 23rd together with a range of holiday activities both fun and educational.

Writing on the Google blog (in the Maps section!) Allison Murray, Google's Reindeer Wrangler gives some hints about what to expect:

Join in the merriment, and visit Santa's Village every day through December 24 to uncover new games and holiday cheer. Learn to code the famous elf dance with Code Boogie, create original artwork in Santa's Canvas, and take part in what could be the world’s largest virtual snowball fight. (Shhh, we weren’t supposed to tell you about that one.) 

She also unveils a new feature for this year - which is restricted to the Android App. Called Santa Snap you can your jetpack-ed elf around the globe in Google Maps and take “elfies” with famous world landmarks.





While the coding activity, Code Lab is not new - it was introduced last year and now is one of the always-available activities it will appeal to new users this year. Like many of the beginner-oriented activities you will find for the annual Hour of Code which is also happening this week - it uses Google's Blockly, which as it names suggests involves drag and drop blocks. Code Lab also provides the opportunity to view the JavaScript this is generated. In just 10 graduated challenges (plus another 4 which introduce an additional concept) it introduces the notion of a program as a list of instructions where loops can cut down the number of steps.

In it's initial  two steps users simply use drag and drop to place first 2 and then 3 interlocking pieces of a picture puzzle together. Then, in the third challenge there's a maze game and users encounter the idea of  building a list of instructions that is executed by clicking a Run button. By way of help there's a cartoon that  shows what do do  - and it instantly becomes intuitive. If you make a mistake you can try again.




At this point there are just arrow blocks for North, South, East and West and only North is required. Next time two directions are required and in challenge 5 you use the North arrow repeated time so when at the next step there's a a new block available, the user understands how it could help.





If you go beyond Challenge 10 a command for jumping over a square is introduced. As with other activities Play Again introduces variations but for those who have enjoyed this introduction and ask for more there's plenty available online. You could try Blockly Games or one of the many Hour of Code Activities that use Blocks.



More Information

Google Santa Tracker

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

Blockly Games

Hour of Code Activities

Related Articles

Google's Santa Tracker Introduces Coding Lab

Blockly Games Introduce Kids To Code

Resources for Hour of Code

Track Santa With Google And NORAD

Santa Sets Off - Track His Progress Across the Globe

Google Blockly - A Graphical Language with a Difference 

Minecraft Hour Of Code

Hour of Code 2017 Introduces App Lab

Grow With Google


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 December 2018 )