Saturday, December 12, 2015

Problem Solving and Dreaming of the Future

This week was big for The Light Bulb Labs! We watched 8 and 9 year olds become expert problem solvers. We watched them learn collaboration and perseverance. We watched them believe in the impossible. We watched "wonder" happen right before our very eyes.


Let me ask you this...do you think a 3rd grader in a public school setting can write computer program in Java Script? How about Python or Ruby? Do you know what these even are (it's okay, I didn't either until this week)? This week we celebrated the Hour of Code. An event that is organized by code.org. Here is what they have to say:


"The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. It is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics."



The thing is, the Hour of Code teaches so much more than computer science. When you walked into the Light Bulb Labs this week it was a total celebration of learning. Every day began with reading about a different computer language tied to a real life application and practice session. We used many resources from the Hour of Code to achieve this. The students worked in collaborative partnerships to debug and work through learning the new code language. The conversations that took place were incredible. For example, Caden shared: "At first our program totally didn't work. We had arms and bodies where we wanted the leg to go. We had to totally debug our program to figure out how to fix it but we got it! It was awesome!"


We had the opportunity to learn how our code skills can be used in real life by learning about the Raspberry Pi. This pocket size computer (around $35) could be HUGE in education. This small device comes with so many resources for the classroom. One of which, is the online tutorials for things like Making a Minecraft Photobooth. We were lucky enough to try this one out, with the help of one of our real life programmers on campus, Mr. Doug Jones. Do you know how excited students get when you use Minecraft in your classroom. If you have never tried it, you should. It allows you to see a whole different side of some of your students. Quiet kids become fearless leaders when they use a tool they are confident with. Check out this link to see even more resources for the Raspberry Pi. We are just beginning our journey with Raspberry Pi that kicked off this week, but our students were mesmerized!


We also had the opportunity to use our skills to show older students what we know. First, we taught fourth graders how to code. We looked at code.org tutorials, teaching them concepts like looping and debugging. We also looked at apps like Kodable, Hopscotch and Cargobot. We even played card games to learn about conditionals. One of the favorite activities though was creating Human Code, where partners would write programs for their buddies to put into action. Kids teaching to kids a skill is something magnificent to see. Not only were they applying their knowledge but they were growing their presentation, speaking and listening skills.

                       

It wasn't just our students who were learning this week. Students were asked to study famous computer scientists outside of the classroom with their families. They were also expected to explain what we were learning about and share that knowledge with their families. Here is some of their feedback.




As if our week couldn't get any better, we wrapped it all up by having the competitive HS Robotics team come and share their adventures with us. They brought with them two NAO robots and the robot they built and competed with last year. They talked to our classes and several others about computer programming. They even let our students drive their robot and try the task they were given for last years competition. It was incredible!



One reason this week was so special is because our third graders do something we call "Code Academy" every Wednesday afternoon. Tara Frederick and myself use the free K-5 curriculum from code.org as well as many other resources like Bitsbox, Hopscotch, Scratch, LEGO EV3 software, Cargo Bot and Kodable. Every week, we challenge our students to use code and all they have learned from it. During this time we also ask them to become Makers in our classroom Maker Spaces. Committing this valuable classroom time took considerable thought but both of us would tell you that it is the best decision we have ever made. So really, Hour of Code was kind of our Superbowl:)

Maybe you took part in Hour of Code and maybe you didn't. I encourage you to pick one thing from today's blog to try out in your classroom. Explicitly teaching skills like collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking are just as important as teaching Common Core standards. I can't list for you every standard I met this week by completing the Hour of Code, but I can tell you that my students couldn't wait to get to school every day and most of their Hour of Code reflections shared their disappointment that they week was over. So for me, that's what really matters!

As always, I'm happy to share anything you read about or answer questions. A huge thank you to code.org for such an amazing week! Can't wait for #HourofCode next year!

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