Tumble Together: An Emulator for Hybrid & Distance Learning

As the world has become increasingly more complicated for educators throughout this pandemic, we have been astounded by talented minds who have responded to these challenges with creative solutions.

The most recent of these creative solutions is a Turing Tumble emulator created by Rich Twilton of the West Midlands, UK, which is aptly named Tumble Together. The ability to have students share their work remotely as they solve challenges via shared rooms make this emulator an asset for educators as well as kids who are seeking the opportunity to connect with other students, relatives or friends.

We also thought many of you may be curious to learn what inspired Mr. Twilton to create such an impressive resource!

TT: What made you want to create an emulator?

RT: During the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic I was furloughed from work while my poor sister and brother-in-law were working from home while caring for two children, so I was having daily video chats with my eldest nephew to keep him entertained for a few hours. We would normally do something creative like drawing or creating stop motion animations. We used to enjoy solving problems on the Turing Tumble together and I wanted to see if we could get it working at a distance.

TT: There are some special features on this emulator that make it an exceptional tool during this time of social distancing. Can you tell us a little about the shared rooms and the type of devices Tumble Together is compatible with? Why was this important to you?

RT: It was important that the application worked on tablets and mobile devices because my nephew doesn’t have access to a computer. I wanted to be able to see what he was thinking and make suggestions without struggling to explain it or have him wave the tablet around to show me. The first version of Tumble Together just let you drag parts into a grid that was shared with the other person. After adding a few more features it became clear it could be useful to others, so I polished it up and made it so lots of people could use it at once. Being able to see changes made by the other person in real time seems like something that would be really useful in schools, especially with the world in it’s current state and kids learning from home. Importantly it works well on touch screens, tablets and most mobiles-it had to as he only has an android tablet.

TT: What do you want your nephew to take from his experience with Turing Tumble and Tumble Together?

RT: Solving complex problems is all about breaking them down into smaller problems and solving them one at a time, in software development as well as with the Turing Tumble. I made Tumble Together as basic as possible to solve the problem before adding complexity, a minimum viable product if you will. I kept my nephew involved with testing at various stages and explained the process and how it was similar to solving a puzzle, and in turn he taught me a valuable lesson in feature creep as we kept adding new options and animations.

TT: What was your first introduction to computers and programming and how old were you? Have you always been interested in programming or was this something you became interested in later in life?

RT: My earliest memory of computing is playing old LucasArts Adventure Games on the family’s Windows 95 PC when I was 6. It wasn’t until my early teens that I got interested in programming when a school friend showed me a script that kept opening new browser windows until the computer crashed. The IT technician was not impressed, but seeing our interest we were allowed to use the labs during breaks to see what we could learn. I’ve been programming, tinkering and teaching myself things ever since.

TT: What is your background and area of study? How did you know how to create Tumble Together?

RT: My day job is as a camera technician, where I use a lot of the same problem solving skills. I recently completed an accredited web development bootcamp and am looking to make the career switch when the world straitens out. The project was an opportunity to experiment with some new technologies and try to build something that’s useful to people.

TT: Because of the pandemic and social distancing, you saw a need for something and created a wonderful resource. Do you think your background in programming and technology contributes to your creative problem-solving capabilities?

RT: Absolutely, these skills encourage you to explore and understand problems before you can solve them. You’re always learning and trying new things, which means when you come across a problem you’ve never seen before you’re better equipped to tackle it.

TT: Given the state of the world we are currently living in with this pandemic and our reliance on technology, do you see a need for anything new or more important in regards to the learning of computer science in education?

RT: The computer scientists of tomorrow are going to be solving problems we can’t even imagine yet, so it’s difficult to say what we should be teaching. But even for kids that don’t go on to be computer scientists, the skills and confidence to tackle new problems that computing teaches will make a huge difference in their lives, and that’s where educators should be focusing their energy.

TT: In your opinion, what is the best way for young people, or even adults, to get started with learning to code? Can anybody learn to program?

RT: The most interesting way to learn to code is by making things, using scratch to make games, art and music, or learning HTML to build your own website are great ways to get started. From there you can follow your interests and keep learning as you go.

TT: Have you used your programming skills to create anything like Tumble Together before?

RT: I make silly little HTML5 web games while participating in game jams, community challenges where the aim is to create something in a short space of time. They’re mostly pretty rubbish, but I always learn a lot and have fun making them.

TT: If you could design anything, what would it be?

RT: Something to shut off the part of my brain that gets distracted when I need to concentrate! I’ve tried all sorts of productivity apps, but nothing sticks.

A big thank you goes out to Rich Twilton for sharing his skills and innovation with students and educators everywhere! We were so impressed by the utility of his emulator for educators as we look forward to a school year that may include both online and blended learning strategies-that we wanted to be sure to share it with all of you as you restructure and craft your lesson plans for the coming year. 

The Turing Tumble team and some of our family had a lot of fun trying out the the shared rooms in Tumble Together! Soren, James and Dave suggest hopping on a video chat or a phone call with your partner to discuss the challenges in the shared rooms.

Fun Fact: Simulator vs. Emulator

Did you know there is a difference between simulators and emulators? According to this blog by Chris Riley of Sauce Labs,"you can think of emulators as occupying a middle ground between simulators and real devices. Whereas simulators only mimic environment features that can be configured or defined using software, emulators mimic both hardware and software features."

We have been so impressed by the talent of our Turing Tumble community. Please visit our educator webpage to see additional emulators that were created by Turing Tumble fans.