Computer Studies teachers have known for a long time that there’s something very unique and engaging about assembling instructions to make a computing device do something. As simple a statement as that is, I think that sums up my entire philosophy of Computer Studies. The art and craft of the Computer Studies teacher is knowing the curriculum, knowing the students, knowing where to get resources, and then matching all of them to make the best possible learning experience. My bookshelves are full of books that I’ve bought over the years to build my own library of resources. By today’s standards, this collection seems quite quaint but, I think like most teachers, it’s just not in my DNA to throw away any book. Like most teachers, my spouse is forever asking “When was the last time you read this book?” “Why don’t you get rid of these?” I just can’t.
I do think “quaint” describes the collection because there is so much readily online anymore. It’s definitely better and much more modern – whether it be resources, lessons, languages, applications, etc.
At the recent CSTA Conference, I had a chance to meet up with some other CS teachers and solve all of the world’s CS ills in the lounge. One of the things that we agreed upon was that the greatest of all books remains Oh! Pascal! In fact, one of the group indicated that it was the standard upon which most modern books are modelled. It’s difficult to argue with that logic. But things have changed dramatically since Oh! Pascal! came on the scene.
So, back to making a computing device do something. I really got into the sessions dealing with programming robots at the conference. While I’d worked with a number of robots here in Ontario at various grade levels, Finch and Hummingbird were new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and can’t imagine any inquisitive youth not rolling up sleeves and digging in.
How do you introduce the notion of instructions making an object move and do something? With the current fascination with purchasing iPads for education, I think that it makes a great deal of sense to look for an application that teaches the concepts and yet has an entry point that works for the youngest of programmers.
To that end, I started looking about and found the application Bee-Bot from TTS. There’s a free version for the iPad to introduce the programming concepts that presumably would be prep for the use of the actual floor robot.
Playing with the Bee-Bot, involves solving problems of increasing difficulty. Here’s Level 5.
I had a whale of a time playing around solving the various levels. It’s a free download and you’re up to speed in minutes. Your kids will be up to speed in seconds. All the while, they’re learning how to create a program or sequence of instructions to make a computing device do something. I wouldn’t suggest that you describe it like that…that sounds too much like academia.
Just pass the device over and watch the trial, error, hypothesis, testing, revising, and ultimate success that will happen.
I would introduce this very early. Grade 3 or 4? It’s going to work best with students in teams solving the challenges. (Don’t get lured into it being “easy” by the first couple of levels.) Treat the levels and the success per level as badges. And, provide lots of scratch paper, encourage drawing/doodling to solve the problems and be amazed when the students are able to solve the challenges on “the farm”.
Who knows? You may be inspiring the next batch of programmers. If not, you’ll be inspiring them to take control of their device to make it do something.
Either way, you’ll bring a smile to your favourite Computer Studies educator.
- Day 2 at #CSTA13 (dougpete.wordpress.com)
- Bee-Bot (ivnadmar.wordpress.com)
- Bee-Bot (charwhitnai.wordpress.com)
- New Bee-Bot App (simonhaughton.co.uk)
- Bee-bot Activity (itassign2013.wordpress.com)
- Bee-bot Activity (mal002.wordpress.com)
- Bee-Bot goes to the Zoo! (jkm20.wordpress.com)
- CSTA Day 2 (geekymomblog.com)
- CS Educator Interview: David Burkhart (acthompson.net)