Open House was this week and I really enjoyed it. It was great to reconnect with parents I have known for a few years and meet new ones. The energy was fantastic. Happy! We can begin the real work now.
I am teaching a humanities class that I have taught before but most of my time this year is focused on starting the IB MYP Design program at Lincoln Community School. Together, with one other colleague we are putting in place the pieces of what I hope will be a strong, resilient, and relevant program for learning.
This week we have introduced the basic principles of computer programing. We began by “Coding the Cup Stack”. Students worked with partners. One student was the coder, and the other was the robotic arm. Students wrote code using a few simple rules and arrows and the “robots” followed the pattern. It worked pretty well. It was simple yet different. Of course students could just stack cups but could they identify the coding, or pattern in what they were doing? By the end of class all the students had figured out the patterns and how to adjust their code for different patterns. The best part of this class was that students said “That was fun”. Grasping a concept and having fun is possible!
Students began the next class using a simple program called Turtle Art. This program lets students drag and drop bits of code onto a screen to make different graphical designs and patterns. The students first task was to use the block code to write their names. This was easier said than done. I assisted in getting students started and monitored progress. Students completed the task by the end of class and made many mistakes along the way. The fun part was that students kept some of the code that resulted in mistakes because they liked the design effect. It felt like a successful exercise when students started to say that they understood how the cup coding we had done in the previous class was similar. Making coded patterns was the same. Next class they will get to put those to use to make more complicated images.
There were successes and failures for me this week as a teacher. I felt like all of the learning objectives were met but of course students had all kinds of technical issues once we started working with computers and software.We spent to much time getting things to run properly. I had to split my time between giving students who were ready the learning task and then working with the students who were not ready with their computer that would not open the file etc. I do not like working that way and it is frustrating for the students. In some cases I had to pair students up because we just could not get it to work on a particular machine. Not ideal.
In the end I think we are moving forward in a direction that is appropriate and exciting for our students. They are learning new skills and being exposed to new ways of thinking. It is really exciting to see what is happening.