Pair Programming

I have been neglecting my blog.  Code Club sessions and other “coding with student” adventures have occurred and I have not sat down and reflected. Now it is Computer Science Education Week or Hour of Code and I’ve more to say than will fit in one post.

Partner Work at Code Club

Pair programmers

So let me start with how I’ve become a supporter of pair programming.

Coding is generally thought of as one person sitting in front of a computer hacking away at code for hours on end.  Most of my programming is done this way – I’ve been known start a coding session and come away with no sense of what time it is.  As soon as one feature is implemented, there is always another bug or feature to work on.

I have done some pair programming with my spouse, who is a software engineer.  I believe he called it “extreme” programming at first.  He drives and I navigate and this works for us.

My Code Club students can choose to work with partners on their own designs.  I also pair up math students for Scratch Math Games.

This year I used Code.org’s Pair Programming video to introduce the concept.  The video does a nice job modeling pair programming and listing  Do’s and Don’t’s.  I like that the programmers are girls.  My only problem is the one inappropriate bit where one girl tries to stop the other girl from talking by covering up her mouth.  That would not be appropriate behavior in elementary school.

Now that both Code Clubs and both math groups have seen the video and we’ve talked about the concept, the teams seem to work better. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but when an issue comes up, we’ll be able to communicate using the same language and expectations.  So watch out bossy navigators and drivers who hog the mouse, you’ll be switching roles soon.

 

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Pong with Flair

This week in Code Club we worked on a Scratch game project that was simple in design but could be creatively enhanced quite easily.  We used Simon Haughton’s Pong game directions.  That’s right, the old Pong game.  Of course, these 10 year olds had never heard of Pong.

When considering what project to try this week I took a look at the new Code Club Scratch projects that have just become available.  I have no doubt my students would love them all, especially Dodgeball.  I’m considering that for next time.

After their struggles with Paint Box, though,  I wanted to introduce a simpler project and Pong fit the bill.  My high school volunteers were excited about it, too.  One said he had written a Pong game before.

I started our code club meeting by talking about the independent project that is coming up. I want them to start thinking about what game or animation they want to design.  My goal, I explained, was to introduce a variety of projects to them so they could get an idea of what was possible to make using Scratch. They could even take a project they have already started and enhance it to make it their own.

With that in mind we started Pong.

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a new coders’ Pong game

I also put the original 2-person Pong game on screen and a break-out style game to give them ideas of where this kind of game could go.  It didn’t take them long to code their game so there was plenty of time for their creativity to come out.

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A code club girl’s take on Pong

Some students added extra objects on the screen to interact with and get or lose points.  Others spent extra time with the background and sounds.

There was even time at the end to look at or work on previous projects and think about their independent project that is coming up.  I saw one student adding more to his ChatBot project, another looking online at last sessions’ Showcase #1 projects.

A couple of students have asked if they could work in groups of three for the individual project.  I have my reservations about this.  Pair programming is hard enough. Some groups worked well together last time, others…. I have to come to a decision about this soon.