The new Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies curriculum requires grade 6 and 7 students to learn strategies for computational thinking. Although algorithms and visual representations are found throughout the rest of the curriculum, computer programming was new to me. I decided to incorporate coding into our science classes as a chance to really observe my students’ core competencies: communication, creative and critical thinking, and personal and social responsibility. For the first time, I taught a unit in science with no real assessment. Some of my students were thrilled to learn they wouldn’t have a test on our next unit, while others were hesitant to find out that they wouldn’t be rewarded for hard work. I thought it would be interesting to monitor their motivation throughout the unit. On the day I announced the unit, I took a quick anonymous survey of my students through a few different questions. The results to the first question are below. To be clear, “disappointment” was a fourth choice.
I thought it was so interesting how many of them weren’t excited!
The next 3 weeks were a blur. These were the 3 weeks before the winter holidays, so there were many interruptions throughout the school day, but we pushed through. My students were introduced to Dash – a three-wheeled robot controlled through the students’ iPads (my students are part of a one-to-one iPad program in our school). The apps are great – the students could control Dash like a remote-controlled car, but were soon excited to try programming Dash to move.
After completing a checklist the first day, they were given a challenge. They had to create a physical maze for Dash to go through and then program him to make it through without touching the walls.
My students had to be pretty creative with what their walls were made of. This group used our class tents and a giant bag of potting soil!
After a couple days of learning block-based coding, I wanted to do a cross-curricular art project. In groups of four, they chose a 4-letter word and each programmed one letter. We found the one room in our school that can get pitch-black and did a bit of light painting. Of course there were a few failures before we found success!
I think the above word was meant to be YEAH… In the end, my students were blown away by what their words looked like and love that they now adorn our classroom walls.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment away below!