Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kids Coding Kids

"Don't treat kids like robots, " is pretty sound advice.

Well phooey to that, I say. I really do. I say, "Phooey!" And on a regular basis too. You should try it. No matter how upset you are one good, "Phooey!" will clear your system out.

Today I treated my kids like robots. Like sprites. Like programs.

Like programmers.

Practicing coding on the computer is great. It's where they'll actually be coding, so it makes sense to practice there. However, anything that can be done on the computer can be done off it if you're creative enough. I do not take credit for this idea, I'm 90% sure Sam Patterson gave it to me. I had my kids code each other.

Set up was simple and fast, both lovely things for a teacher to hear. I grabbed four packets of colored construction paper. We cleared out desks to the edges of the room, something we do regularly so the kids are fast and safe with it. I told them, "You will now code each other!" Cue excited twittering. I explain that they will lay out colored papers in an order of their choosing. They must decide what each color means. Does it mean Forward Two? Jump? Moo? Spin? They will lay out their program and then run it with themselves as the bot or sprite. Then we'll switch and try each others.

This whole thing was done very quickly. Introduction to clean up took 25 minutes. I pushed them to get it done quickly. The program was not to be complicated. Space was limited.

Like most things, the most valuable lesson was in the mistakes. Students would set two blocks next to each other, a Moo Block and a Spin Block for example. When you landed there you'd moo and spin. But because they'd forgotten to include another piece of code directing the student-bot to move forward or back after mooing and spinning the program ended prematurely.

Kids were moving. Kids were coding. Kids were problem solving. Kids were cooperating and communicating.

Naturally Courson and I made a video of the whole thing as well.

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