The Uplifting Words of Children

For the last technology lab of the year, I provided the first graders with several options:  Ozobots, Osmo Coding, and links on my website (TVS TechnoWizards).

As I walked around the room interacting with the kids, I came upon two students who were working on creating paths for their Ozobots. They were each working on their own paper so I asked, “What do you think might happen if you joined the papers?”

The reaction was great! One of those “wow” moments as they scooted their papers together! Then came the sweet words of children . . .

Child 1:  “Wow! You’re really smart!”

Child 2:  “Yeah, you are REALLY smart!”

Child 1:  “I wish I could have you as my computer teacher in college.”

Teaching doesn’t get much better than that!

Fantastic Fridays

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Last week I started something new with the 4th graders – Fantastic Fridays. On the board, I wrote a list of activities. Some were things they’ve done before but never seemed to get tired of it. Others were completely new.

  • Osmo – a unique way to physically interact with the iPad
  • Ozoblockly – drag and drop programming to use with Ozobots
  • Kodable – programming curriculum for elementary students
  • Know Your States – an excellent interactive game to learn where the states are located.
  • Sugar, Sugar – a fabulous problem-solving activity

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The students were SO engaged! Yes, there is a time when you have to teach skills but choosing your learning is critical! We, as teachers, must make time for that as well. Be sure to walk around and listen in on conversations – the dialog, the problem-solving, the planning is amazing!

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The girl who was using Ozoblockly even returned after school so that she could show her sister what she’d done in class.

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She also wanted me to video her Ozobots dancing in tandem. Here they are:

The last question the students asked as they exited the lab was, “May we please do this again?”

And, yes, we most definitely will!

We Can Code!

Code.org was introduced to our first graders last week. As kindergarteners, most of the children had used Kodable (and we’ll be using that again as well).

We started with the “unplugged” Happy Maps and Move It, Move It activities from the Code.org course 1 curriculum.

First, the vocabulary was introduced:

  • Algorithma list of steps that you can follow to complete a task
  • Programan algorithm that has been coded into something that can be run like a machine.

Instead of having the students work individually on paper, I drew a grid on the board and asked them to how they would move Flurb (yes, that’s its name!) to reach the apple.

IMG_4029This was really interesting with the first class. Two different students came up to the board and each took a very long way to reach the apple.

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After discussing how there are almost always several ways to solve a problem, we talked about taking lots of steps versus taking fewer steps. Then the students realized that Flurb just needed to hop down one space to make it faster.

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I think what confused the students is that there was no square between Flurb and the apple. Once they realized that it was okay to hop to another square, they understood that the move was fine.

The next challenge was to guide Flurb to the flower pot. However, some of the squares were blocked off.

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By this time, the students were quickly rattling off how Flurb could move. They GOT it!

We moved to the computer, had the students log into code.org with their secret picture and off they went. Or, at least some of them – for whatever reason, we had a really difficult time accessing the site. Don’t know if the problem was on our end or theirs?? We’ll try again, though.

I know that we have an eager group of little coders ready to practice algorithms and programs!

Hour of Code 2014

The Hour of Code is over for this year but our coding has just begun! We have first and second graders who started Kodable last week and they have gone through almost all the levels! I had fun watching students “walk out” the coding steps as they decided which direction the arrow commands should turn. Our fourth graders were presented with a challenge by Dr. Krahn, our headmaster who teaches JavaScript to them twice a week, and they worked so well together to meet it. Their reward was having their names called out for morning announcements! And, wow! They love being mentioned that way!

Enjoy a short video showing the excitement of coding!

Hour of Code Begins!

The second annual Hour of Code is here – celebrated the week of December 8 – 12! Last year, 15 million students around the world learned an hour of code.

What is Hour of Code? “A one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.” (From Hour of Code FAQs)

Our school will be doing a variety of activities for Hour of Code. On Wednesday, the upper school students will be demonstrating coding during lunch for all K-12 children. K-3 students will be in the computer lab with me exploring the following:

  • Kodable:  K – 2 classes will log in to the Kodable app to learn sequence, conditions, and loops by dragging and dropping commands to program a fuzzy character. The app is free with in-app purchases. A school account was purchased for our younger students so their progress is saved.
  • LightBot: The LightBot app ($2.99) is designed for ages 9 – 12. However, I’ve used it with younger children and it’s always a hit. Students move the character to light a square by dragging and dropping commands. There is also a LightBot, Jr. for the younger children.
  • CodeStudio Course 2: The third graders will begin CodeStudio’s Course 2, a free introduction to coding for elementary students. The course teaches the user to snap blocks together (it starts out with Angry Birds) and shows the lines of written code. The students have a picture log in and they are welcome to progress through the course at their own pace. The link to their class account can be found on the coding page of TVS TechnoWizards. (All K-4 students are enrolled in one of the 3 courses for elementary ages. We will work on the courses throughout the year.)
  • Khan Academy: The fourth graders will continue working with Dr. Krahn in Khan Academy; writing JavaScript code.

appsThese activities are just a few of the many resources available to help students of all ages experiment with coding. Since I work with elementary children, I’ll focus on those designed for this age.

Apps:

  • Daisy the Dinosaur: Snap blogs together to learn coding basics (ages 6-8; free)
  • Bee-Bot: Move Bee-Bot through a series of directional movements (ages 5-8; free)
  • Hopscotch: Snap blogs together to program characters to do tasks (ages 9-11; free)
  • Scratch Jr: Students program interactive stories and games (ages 6-8; free)
  • Move the Turtle: Solve tasks while learning to code (ages 9-11; $)

Online Activities:

  • CodeStudio: Besides the courses available, there are special Hour of Code activities including Frozen, Play Lab, and Flappy Code.
  • Hour of Code with Khan Academy: Practice drawing with JavaScript (for older children).
  • Scratch Programming: Snap blocks together to create games, interactive stories, and more.
  • Tynker Hour of Code: Similar to Scratch with the snap blocks; Tynker also has an iOS app.
  • Blockly Games: A series of games designed to practice coding (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).
  • Holiday Lights: Light up the White House Christmas tree by snapping coding blocks together (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).

As you can see, there are numerous resources available to learn coding. Learning coding helps students develop computational skills and problem solving. Coding is difficult but the students LOVE the challenge! Give it a try – your children will enjoy guiding you through what they know!

An article to ponder:
Why Every Child Should Learn to Code
from the Guardian

Beginning Coding

Last year we participated in Hour of Code (and we’ll be joining in again this year). But one day of coding is NOT enough. This year we are starting early.

The first graders came to the lab this week and I asked them to raise their hand if they knew some Spanish and Chinese (they take both in Lower School). I then asked if anyone knew other languages. Several raised their hands. Next, I asked if they had ever heard of computer language. By the look on their faces, I could tell they had not! We discussed how computer games, programs, and apps require someone to “program” them or to write computer language so that the computer knows what to do.

I was excited to discover that Code.org has recently launched Code Studio – excellent lessons designed specifically for elementary ages. This is what I chose to introduce coding to our first graders. There are three courses for students along with a “Fun for Everybody” section that includes Play Lab, Flappy Code, and Artist. The free account allows teachers to set up classes and determine log in by use of a secret picture (perfect for younger students) or  word. As students move through the levels, they snap blocks together to run each program.

The students has a blast with this site. They start out by doing some easy moves – dragging images, snapping puzzles together. The second section begins with Angry Birds and of course, that was a huge hit! I demonstrated the first Angry Birds activity so that the children could view the “computer language” or code (JavaScript) that was written.

photo(4)The students are eager to continue working in Code Studio at their own pace!

Besides Code Studio, our younger students will be using the following apps throughout the year:

Learning Programming with the Headmaster

Last May, I met with our headmaster, Gary Krahn, about establishing a more formal coding program for our fourth graders. The exciting news from the meeting was that Dr. Krahn wanted to teach our fourth graders on a regular basis. We discussed some possibilities – whether to use Scratch or go with JavaScript. Dr. Krahn wanted to play with both before deciding what to do. A few weeks later, we met again. The decision was to teach JavaScript using Processing 2. Dr. Krahn would teach twice a week for the entire year!

Well, not all plans work perfectly – for whatever reason, our tech department couldn’t get Processing 2 to download correctly. With one day left before Dr. Krahn was to teach, there was a frantic search for some other application to use. Khan Academy was the choice. The students were quickly set up, we added a link on my web page,  and Dr. Krahn was ready to begin.

Dr. Krahn with the 4th graders

Dr. Krahn with the 4th graders

As Dr. Krahn introduced the lesson, the students listened intently (except for the tired boy in the corner!) and asked lots of questions. Dr. Krahn started with some basics:

  • Background color – Example:  background(181, 85, 85);
  • How to place objects on the screen (x,y axis)

And then the students explored. The first session of 40 minutes went by very quickly, much to the chagrin of the students!

Exploring

Exploring

In the next class, fill, strokeweight, and rectangle were introduced. Using an idea from Dr. Ginger Alford, our Director of Computer Science, Dr. Krahn discussed Mondrian paintings and how to create one using coding. This time, we had high school students come in so there were plenty of helpers to go around!

The students are extremely excited about learning coding AND having Dr. Krahn as their instructor. Many have continued working at home – anytime a child is inspired to learn on their own time is thrilling! I can’t wait to see how far they go this year!

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Techie Club: Hour of Coding

Every year our school has an auction and the teachers are encouraged to provide some type of activity for bidding. In the past, I’ve always done a “TechnoWizard of the Day” where a student plans and teaches the classes that come to the lab.

This year I decided to offer something different. It was open to five students who would come in after school for an hour of tech activities.

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Four terrific third graders and one stupendous 2nd grader bid on the item and joined me last Friday for a fun afternoon.

As usual, I had TOO much planned but that’s okay, we had lots of fun. We started with the Hopscotch app and downloaded and Etch-a-sketch program. The children were encouraged to experiment with the variables in the script blocks to change the way the program responded.

Clearing the Screen!

Clearing the Screen!

Next, we moved to Scratch to create a maze and then it was on to the Makey Makey boards to control our project. We also used a pre-made Scratch piano and playdoh to hook that up to make music.

Here is a glimpse at our quick afternoon of coding!

Celebrating the Hour of Code!

What a fun and exciting day we had on December 11th as the entire school celebrated the Hour of Code! Here is a snippet of what occurred that day.

As usual, I planned far too much for 15 minute periods! How could I really think that we could work with 3 or 4 apps in that short amount of time? (See previous post: Getting Ready for Hour of Code). But, that’s alright! The students had a wonderful time working with apps, online programs, and coding with cups during P.E.

I loved watching the thinking processes that occurred as the students worked. You could almost see their brains spinning as they practiced how to solve each level! The collaboration among the students was fantastic. If someone was “stuck” another child quickly and willingly stepped in to offer guidance. The best part was watching the students help their teachers! I even had one teacher who apparently worked with the Cargo Bot app all day; giving up his planning periods to move up through the levels. He even searched for me after school to discuss it!

Our coding day was a resounding success. My part was with Lower School but I know exciting events were going on in our Middle and Upper Schools as well!

Enjoy a longer animoto video of the day.

Getting Ready for Hour of Code

Several weeks ago, two of our upper school teachers invited me to join them in celebrating Computer Science Education Week’s Hour of Code. After adding a teacher from Middle School and participating in some fun brainstorming sessions, we’ve come up with several exciting activities to encourage ALL ages that they can code!

First, what is Hour of Code?

  • From Code.orgThe Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to try Computer Science for one hour during the week of Dec. 9-13 (Computer Science Education Week).

We have chosen Wednesday, December 11 to have our “Hour of Code” Day. Here is a look at what we’ll be doing.

Lower School will be coming to the lab for 15 minutes of coding either using apps on our iPad minis or online programs.

Kindergarten and first graders will be using:

Kodable

Free & paid versions
Light Bot

Free & paid versions

Both are fun ways for younger children to understand how putting instructions together causes something to happen.

Second graders will use the above apps along with:

Daisy the Dino

Free

Daisy the Dinosaur guides children to drag command blocks to the program area to make the dinosaur perform a task.

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Third graders will be coding an Angry Bird puzzle.

The puzzle was specifically designed for Hour of Code and can be done on the iPad or on a computer.

angry birds puzzleFourth grade moves to Hopscotch and Cargo Bot.

Hopscotch

Free
Cargo Bot

Free

Hopscotch is created by the same people who designed Daisy the Dinosaur. It’s the “next step up” and is definitely more challenging and it provides the opportunity for students to use a variety of coding blocks.

hopscotchCargo Bot has the user drag coding tools to program the robot to move boxes. Sound easy?? Not necessarily, as the user moves through each level that grows progressively more difficult.

cargo botI’ve collected some other resources to encourage students to code beyond our short time together. You can find these on my Coding webpage.

More Activities:

We are extremely excited to have our coaches participating. They will be doing the Traveling Circuits cup-stacking activity with grades K – 6. The goal of this off-line activity is to highlight programming techniques as they instruct their “robot” to build a specific cup stack using only six symbols.

Our older students will be participating as well. A middle school math instructor will hold coding sessions for fifth and sixth graders. Technology labs will be staffed by computer science students and instructors to aid new coders as they drop in throughout the day.

During our lunch periods, middle and high school students will be coding as the output is projected on a large screen in the cafeteria. The coder will sit on the “Throne of Code” and wear the Coding Crown.

Throne of Code (and crown)

Throne of Code (and crown)

We’re looking forward to an exciting day!