Friday, 16 December 2016

The grades sevens meet their grade three clients

Much has happened in the weeks since our last post. Last week we were finally able to connect with the Grade 3 students who had chosen favorite books. After the grade threes were shown a demo of a game, they were asked to think about their books that they had chosen and what a game might look like if it was about their book.

Each grade 3 student was partnered with a grade 7 student and they spent the first 20 - 30 minutes reading and sharing their books.

Next the grade 7 students interviewed the grade threes and helped them put together a plan for their game including the artwork for their sprites. Some of the artwork was drawn completely by the grade  three students, while in other cases, the grade 7 students took on the role of artist, guided by suggestions given by the grade three clients.

It was really interesting to see the discussion taking place in the classroom. Everyone was on task and engaged.

Both classroom teachers noticed the depth of engagement with students who typically struggled with focus. I had originally feared that the the discussion would be somewhat scripted and based on the interview worksheet that the sevens had prepared, but instead I noticed a lot of authentic discussion regarding game development.

 I noticed in some discussions the very nuanced ability to steer the discussion in very productive ways. Because the grade 7 students had already spent some time coding, they knew the limits of their abilities and were able to steer and re shape grandiose plans into goals that were reachable.
Below is one such discussion.It is a little hard to hear due to all of the talk occurring in the classroom at the time, but their body language shows the dept of their engagement.

More Photos:


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Colaboration, the pros and cons of working in partners

Task 4:
In our original plan we had envisioned the students working together in partners to plan and develop their programs. Because the first few lessons were done individually it wasn't until task 4 that students were actually placed in partnerships. We found we had mixed results. Most pairs worked well together and I saw some good discussion occurring as they were planning. Unfortunately most got camera shy as soon as I pulled out the camera. There was only one pair that was not working together well and as a result the student who was removed from the activity and the remaining student was paired with another student from a pair who had already completed the activity. During the programming phase, I noticed that there was a lot of off task behavior by students who were not operating the computer at the time, especially with the students who struggled with attention issues.. We decided to try giving all students computers  after the paired planning phase during the next task to see if on task behavior improved.

Below are some short videos of the Task 2 planning and programming:

Planning Together:

We have a plan:

After students were finished with their task, they were encouraged to try to figure out an extra challenge:
Time for a Challenge - a good idea:

Task 2 Student Work samples

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Our second day - Wrapping up loose ends

After our first lesson and confusion in logging in, Mr. Dawson set to work putting in a request to the IT dept. to have passwords reset for his forgetful students. Few students had gotten the chance to complete the Analysis activity for Task 1, so we wen over it as a class. I like to start every lesson off with a puzzle,  so I provided them with this "buggy" program. We discussed the difference between a computer virus and a bug in a program, which I was surprised to discover not one student knew previously.

After discussing the program and fixing the bug we worked through the analysis activity:

We discussed how the numbers in the blue move blocks are always ADDED to the current x value in the coordinates. Moving right you are adding a positive number and moving left you are adding a negative number. It was great to see every student in the class grasping the concept (though some required a little extra discussion).

With a beginning understanding of  coordinates and integers I set them loose on their next task. I'll be posting some images of their work once their release forms are in, hopefully early next week.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Introducing the Project

Last week we introduced the Coding Project and gave the grade 7 students their first task. Our SET-BC computers were not ready for us yet so we booked the schools computer lab. We showed them the demo game and explained the project. 

They were very eager to get to the computers but had to create their coding plan before starting. The first task is relatively simple but is designed to get the students to immediately attend to the concept of opposite integers.

We decided to do the first few learning activities individually rather than in pairs. Unfortunately, being the the first time many of the students were accessing school computers this year, most of the student had forgotten their passwords and were unable to log on so only a few were able to finish the activity.

Some students ended doubling up and most were able to complete the task on the computers but then we ran into another issue. The Students were unable to download and save thier projects due to a hiccup in our lab set up. Frustrating but not a gigantic problem since right now the goal is to learn basic programming and math concepts rather than begin the actual game.

We are looking forward to having our own computers in the classroom (thanks to SET-BC). Hopefully they will be ready soon.

Collaborative Coders Project with SET-BC

It has been quite a while since I last posted to this blog, but a new project has given me an excellent reason to start up again. In the spring I applied through SET-BC to participate in a Classroom Based Coding Inquiry. The purpose of the inquiry is to to pilot the use of ‘Coding’ as a vehicle for blending the new BC curriculum with strategies that support all student’s learning.  Planning, training and technology support is being generously offered by SET-BC who are interested in building  the conditions necessary for building capacity in the use of ‘Coding’ within an existing classroom setting.

Our Inquiry Questions:

Language Arts: Will developing a video game for younger (Grade 3 ) students (using authentic tasks to communicate with others, both orally and in writing) give grade 7 students who struggle to complete tasks in Language Arts the motivation to find success?

Math: Will authentic tasks in coding (creating a plaform-style video game) give students an opportunity and motivation to aply math skills key to the new grade 7 math curriculum in BC (adding and subtracting integers and plotting coordinates on a cartesian grid).

Focus on the Core Competencies

Communication: Students will work in partners (a stronger student with a struggling student) taking turns “driving” the mouse and keyboard to avoid the stronger student taking control and to encourage verbal communication. Communication with their younger “clients” both face to face verbally and in writing will also be key component of the project.

Thinking: Creating a full game is very complex and because this may be the first encounter for many students to programming (coding) the game creation will be broken down into manageable tasks for the students. Each programming task will be presented to the grade 7 students as a logic puzzle to solve within a single period.Students will learn how to problem solve by coming up with a plan to complete their desired goal as well as fixing any mistakes (debugging). Procedural thinking and problem solving skills will be honed during the task.

Personal and Social: This game will be developed FOR the younger students and therefore their needs will need to be considered. A large goal of this project is for the grade 7 students to gain empathy for the younger students as well as gain the joy giving their time and talents to create something real and wonderful for someone else. 

A Slight Change in Plans: When I originally applied to participate in the program I was teaching in a grade 7 classroom, but since I have now moved into a district position (Math and LUCID Helping Teacher) the project will now be taking place in my colleague, Mr D’s classroom instead. We make a good team, I have agreed to lend him my experience and expertise in teaching  programming  or “coding” with Scratch and showing how it links to the Math curriculum in exchange for Mr. D’s  passion and expertise in teaching Language Arts.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

File Types and Extensions

I've been teaching my students about different file types and extensions in class which has proven to be more time consuming that I thought it would be. It is astonishing how few students have ever noticed that different file types have different extensions. I blame this on the fact that so often extensions are hidden from file names. I think this is a bad idea. I found this handy list covering common file types: