By Peter Anello
As a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator, I likely have one of the best jobs that anyone with the slightest interest and passion for technology could ever have and I absolutely love it!
Being able to help staff and students learn the latest skills and pedagogies related to technology in education some days feels like I should be paying to do this instead of getting paid - it can be that fun.
"You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it." - Papert
Welcome the micro:bit
I was lucky enough to spend three morning blocks with a grade 6/7 class over the span of five school days in October, introducing students to the micro:bit.
We discussed algorithms and programs, and how computers need these to complete even the simplest task. Scanning the room, students for the most part knew what the difference was.
We watched the Brain Pop video (https://www.brainpop.com/technology/computerscience/computerprogramming/) and completed the Dice Race activity (https://studio.code.org/s/course3/stage/10/puzzle/1).
Each group was then tasked to describe all steps to play the game and writing these steps down.
To capture student understanding and wrap up day one, I used Flipgrid (for the first time!). It is an amazing and easy way to capture student voice in the form of video; so powerful.
The next day I introduced the micro:bit (http://microbit.org/). Students worked in pairs and we completed a couple of introductory activities to get familiar with makecode (https://makecode.microbit.org/).
The die roll simulator (https://www.microbit.co.uk/blocks/lessons/die-roll) was definitely a challenge, which I had anticipated.
At the end of day two, I was worried that by jumping right into conditional statements with the group I would turn some students off with the idea of coding. Thankfully as we started up on day three, there was no worry at all.
Some students were excited to show me and each other what they had programmed, with others asking for help with some basic concepts of code. It was
exciting to see this all take place, especially after four days since the last day I was with them.
We consolidated the activity by having students share their programs. It was a great opportunity to see how some students' programs were slightly different than others and with close inspection, performed similarly.
To make use of these die simulators that the students had created, we then moved to play a game of SKUNK (https://digitallesson.com/games/GameSkunk.pdf). I had never heard of the game, but Lisa Floyd had shared this game with me (she learned of it from the math team at TVDSB) in conversation as I was sharing my plans with the class with her.
My biggest takeaway from this activity was that students aren’t provided enough opportunities to explore the world of coding and how it can be integrated into their classes. Teachers are trying to ‘fit it in’, but with such a rigid schedule of curriculum to follow, most tend to keep with what they’re comfortable with.
"I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge." - Papert
That’s where I come in!
Coding/programming naturally has a low-floor, high ceiling. Being a newer concept for most, I honestly feel that once teachers are provided an opportunity to see the many affordances that computational thinking can provide for their students, it’ll be a no-brainer that they’ll want to implement it.
See the fuller version of this blog here.
Peter Anello is a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator with the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board. He blogs about his experiences with Computational Thinking, Coding and other Educational Technology topics at http://www.anello.ca/.