Tales of Hour of Code 2016

Hour of Code or Computer Science Education Week was well received by the school this year. Every class from Kindergarten to 4th grade had the opportunity to work on one of Code.org’s Hour of Code tutorials during their computer lab time. This is Code.org’s third year of promoting a week of computer science education and I’ve supported them each year by introducing these tutorials to my students.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-7-27-21-amThis year Minecraft and Moana were the big hits, as well as Angry Birds and Star Wars.  The tutorial options are a great way to give students choice in the learning and they are so fun.  Students can’t believe they can play Minecraft at school.  I like the new Minecraft Designer tutorial.  I felt it gave the students a peek at the code behind the game and allowed them a lot of freedom of choice and freedom to be goofy.  What 8 year old wouldn’t want a chicken that lays diamonds!  Meanwhile they don’t even realize how much they are learning about how to program.

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1st grade Hour of Code activities

I do like to see who has that algorithmic thinking skill and is able to solve the tutorial puzzles independently.  For 2nd graders in general, Moana and Minecraft have pretty difficult concepts, like algorithmic planning, iteration and events (in Minecraft Designer).  Some of them look to each other for help, sometimes I have to read the directions to them, sometimes I have to be Steve or the boat so they can see how it turns in place and moves forward.  One 2nd grader surprised me at how easy the tutorial was for him.  I called him a Coding God (they are studying Ancient Greek Gods right now). He thought that was hilarious. I hope he signs up for Code Club when he is in 4th grade.

 

In addition to general class Hour of Code activities, my three math enrichment classes completed their Scratch math games.  That’s 27 new math games coded by 8-10 year olds. Here are the 4th graders, and 3rd graders studios. This week they played each other’s games and gave feedback in terms of Two Stars and a Wish, as I have done in the past.  I love this step in the game engineering process.  The students have to take the time to notice and test each game and learn to give good feedback.  I’m hoping we get time to improve the games based on the feedback they receive.

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I will leave the option of Hour of Code activities for the rest of December – making it Month of Coding at our school!

There are so many tutorials at Code.org/learn.  I may have to try a few myself. I’ve been meaning to learn Javascript.

If Math Games, Then Hour of Code

Computer Science Education Week is upon us and my first batch of 4th grade Scratch math games are shared.  More will be completed tomorrow.  3rd graders have also been working on math games within my Scratch teacher account. I need to post those on our school website, too.screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-7-39-55-pm

I’ve been noticing a subtle misconception showing up with how my student are using the ask and answer blocks in their math quiz games.  When introducing the ask and answer block, I state that the two blocks work together. I talk about how the ask and wait is a Sensing block and is waiting for the user to type something and that something is held by the answer block.  I specifically say that these blocks come in a pair because I’ve had other issues with students type “answer” in the operator instead of using the answer block.

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This year, I guess, the students have more complicated scenarios with multiple Sprites in play.  They set up one Sprite to ask the question.

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and another Sprite to face the consequences of a right or wrong answer.

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The logic seems okay unless you realize that other Sprite is not waiting for the input.  That is subtle for them to understand.

I realize that the answer block is a global variable and can be separated from the ask block. The code below works on a separate Sprite from the one asking.

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However, my solution for the students was to create two broadcast messages: “correct” and “incorrect”. The broadcast event block is a powerful tool and a good block to get to know. Fourth grade teams were able to work on separate Sprites and code the ask/answer decisions in one and the receive broadcast events in the other and put them together to make cool projects.

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Then, of course, there is what happens when you show a certain 4th grader how to make random math fact variables:

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Yikes! I’m not sure how Scratch does it, but I love the fail soft aspects that make this a super awesome programming platform for kids.

More about Hour of Code as the week progresses.  I’m really looking forward to the week’s events.

Like a Dream

I taught so many hours of code yesterday that I dreamed in code.  (It was the only way to move in my dream.  Thanks Anna & Elsa.)

Code.org puzzle with Frozen characters

Code.org puzzle with Frozen characters

But it was an awesome day.  Three classes of Hour of Code 2014 activities from Code.org, Tynker, & Code Kingdoms for 2nd and 4th graders plus two classes of Scratch and then Code Club after school.  A few 4th graders were with me for couple of these hours, too. I wonder if they dreamed about coding too?

For Computer Science Education Week, or “Hour of Code” week, I had the 4th grade math group I work with write math games in Scratch.  The project idea comes from the Scratch resources on Computers for Creativity‘s website.  The students were paired up and given two math periods to work on the project.   I showed them the two math games that students had made last year:

4th grade math quiz game in Scratch, 2013

4th grade math quiz game in Scratch, 2013

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4th grade math quiz game in Scratch, 2013

I handed out a one page project outline form and a print out of the guidelines to each pair.

Math Scratch Project Outline – Google Docs

With not very much time to work on it, I warned them to keep the project simple.  Get the game working with one math question, then build on it. I also made sure there was a Code Club member in each pairing, so at least one person had some knowledge of Scratch. I then I let them go.

I set their teacher up on Scratch online and he started a math game himself.  That was Monday.  Yesterday my plan was to have them finish up. My friend and co-worker in this class suggested they might need more time.  She had gone home and tried to make a Scratch math game and had some questions.  (How cool it that?  I’ll have to give both adults their “Hour of Code” certificate.)  But it is true,  I did give the students a big, creative project and only a little bit of time to do it.  From what I saw on Monday, only a couple of pairs were making their game too complicated and or not working well together.  We decided to conference with the each pair during the period to see if they had questions, needed feedback and as a general check-in to see if they were going to make the deadline.  First, though, the students “conferenced” and helped their teacher with his math game.

By the end of math on Wednesday, most of the groups were very close to having a working game.  We decided another half period might be warranted.  Then we’ll share them and try them out.

I heard one student say this coding stuff was great and he wanted to sign up for the next round of Code Club.

Oh, yeah, Code Club was great too. Everyone busy working on their own games.  Recording their voices.  Being successful, or at least satisfied, in drawing their sprites and backgrounds. I really enjoy troubleshooting Scratch projects and seeing all the creative and interesting ideas these 4th graders have.  My volunteers are really great, too.