Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coding Club: Exploring Robotics thanks to ManACE!

This post is part of a series of entries documenting the startup of our Kids Who Code Coding Club at Hamiota Elementary. 

The Kids Who Code project at Hamiota Elementary School focuses on introducing computer science and coding to young learners in engaging and meaningful ways.  Using student-friendly coding tools, students and teachers are learning how to code and exploring ways to build important 21st century skills through coding.  This year, a noon hour coding club for grades 2-5 students is being offered.  In one of their initial club meetings, students set goals and shared their interests related to computer science and coding.  One common goal that students identified was to explore robotics.  Many students expressed a strong desire to code robots and build robots.  Thanks to a ManACE Seed Grant, students can now act on those desires!

Since learning about robotics was a student-identified goal, students have been involved in the decision making for this project.  The first step was to decide which robotics products to purchase, so coding club members worked together to research different options for educational robotics.  Students were asked to identify pros, cons, features and pricing for a variety of products, including  BeeBots, Dash & Dot robots, Sphero and Cubelets.   Once students had completed their research, each club member voted on their top two choices.  Students felt that the Sphero robots and Cubelets would be best for the club.  

The Cubelets and Sphero robots have now arrived, so students are exploring all that is possible with these exciting new tools! Students will be reviewing their robotics purchases to inform other students and schools, so be sure to check back for more information in the coming months.  Our reviews will be posted on this blog and shared on Twitter (@LeahO77). 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coding Club: Exploring TouchDevelop

This post is part of a series of entries documenting the startup of our Kids Who Code Coding Club at Hamiota Elementary.  

When we resumed coding club meetings after Christmas, I offered to introduce a new coding tool to any Grade 5 students who were interested in trying something more challenging.  I had heard a lot of good things about how middle years students were using TouchDevelop to complete tutorials and create games and I felt the Grade 5s would be successful with the added difficulty.  Unfortunately, with dozens of other students in the gym, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend directly teaching students how to get started.  I helped them get to and then suggested they begin a tutorial and try following the steps.  They were able to get started, but they had a lot of questions and needed more support from me, so we decided to have a small-group meeting on an alternate day to get them started.   The following week, the small group met on Monday and I was able to better support them in completing levels of their chosen TouchDevelop tutorial.  During our regular club meeting on Wednesday, many students chose to continue working on their tutorials (which went much better now that they’d had some support to get started.) 

The following Monday, I was surprised to see grade 5s start arriving in my classroom at lunchtime.  The first one asked “Are we working on TouchDevelop with you again today?” to which I replied “I hadn’t planned on it… did you want to work on TouchDevelop today?”  I got a firm “Yes!” Apparently, the students involved had been discussing it all morning and were eager to get back to work on their tutorials.  During this second (somewhat impromptu) meeting, I was able to help students login so that their progress would be saved and we also learned how to rename tutorials so we could keep track of who the work belonged to even though we were sharing a login.  One student even completed and published his first project!  It was exciting to see a finished project and to share it online!  Again that Wednesday, most of the students chose to continue their tutorials during our regular coding club meeting.  Another group was able to publish their finished work.  I think we’ve started something big here.   Many students joined coding club with the idea of creating games or apps and I think that TouchDevelop has the capabilities to help us meet that goal!