Tag Archives: Kodable

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

As I established yesterday, I don’t like bulletin boards and I do like stealing ideas from other people.  It’s ironic that I have posted two bulletin board pictures on this blog from my classroom in the last month since it is my least favorite part of setting up my classroom – but it makes more sense when you realize that I’m just building on the ideas of others.

I’m really emphasizing Growth Mindset in a big way this year, so both of my bulletin boards are aimed at that while I wait for my classes to start so I can hang up student work.  (I am currently testing students for the Gifted and Talented program.  Stapling their tests to the board would probably be frowned upon…)  A few weeks ago, I mentioned my “Courage Zone” bulletin board.  Today’s post is about a board I did that integrates a programming theme with thinking about mindsets.

All of my students from last year are familiar with Kodable, a great iPad game for learning the basics of programming.  So, I “stole”  one of Kodable’s beloved characters, Blue Fuzz, as well as a screen shot of the programming blocks and arrows.  I made a little path of blue squares and added some gold coins to make it look more like the game.  My twist was adding words to each path that represent Fixed and Growth Mindsets.  To top it off, I have a list of questions for the students to consider in preparation for a discussion about the board.

I’m not very artistic, so the board isn’t as “pretty” as I would like it. However, I’ve noticed all of the students I’m testing have looked at it with interest, so I’m hoping it is sending the message I intended.

I’m also a terrible photographer (but I keep trying because I have a Growth Mindset!) so forgive me for the low-quality pictures! You might want to click on the top one to get a better view of my blurry photo 😉

For more mindset resources, check out my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board here!

Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!
Program Your Way to a Growth Mindset!

programgrowthquestions

 

 

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Kids Can Code With Kodable

Have you done your Hour of Code, yet?  So far, I’ve done 8.5 hours of coding this week with my students in various grade levels – with more hours to add today and tomorrow!  We’ve used ScratchHopscotch, and a board game called Robot Turtles (which I will be describing in detail in tomorrow’s post).  For more ideas for Programming for Kids, here is my Pinterest Board.

One of my 5th grade students puzzles over a Kodable challenge
One of my 5th grade students puzzles over a Kodable challenge

Have you done your Hour of Code, yet?  So far, I’ve done 8.5 hours of coding this week with my students in various grade levels – with more hours to add today and tomorrow!  We’ve used Scratch, Hopscotch, and a board game called Robot Turtles (which I will be describing in detail in tomorrow’s post).  For more ideas for Programming for Kids, here is my Pinterest Board.

One app that we haven’t used this week is Kodable.  The only reason we haven’t used it for the past few days is because we have been using it since October.  I thought it might be cheating to stick with what we all know well when I have been encouraging everyone else to go outside their comfort zones!

As some of you know, I introduced programming to my 3rd-5th grade classes by using Kodable’s “Unplugged” activity, which involves making a classroom obstacle course.  The students loved that, and it made the transition to the digital version of Kodable practically seamless.

There are two versions of Kodable in the App Store.  The free version allows users to play the first 30 levels (Smeeborg World) for free.  The Pro version (currently on sale for .99) offers full access, giving you a total of 4 Worlds.  And, a special bonus, Kodable is unveiling a new Fuzz next week – Holly!

Holly Fuzz - coming just in time for the "Holly"days!
Holly Fuzz – coming just in time for the “Holly”days!

Kodable scaffolds programming skills so that young children can learn how to code.  They don’t even have to know how to read.  The goal is to direct a “Fuzz” through a maze by placing the correct sequence of commands and pressing “Play.”  It begins very simply, and slowly increases in difficulty.  As students complete certain levels, they earn new “Fuzz” characters, and can choose the ones they want to use.  My personal favorite is “Shaggy Fuzz”, a brown Fuzz who makes me giggle every time he hums while he travels through the maze.  I told my students to turn their volume up on the iPads just so I could hear when they were using him 😉

One of the things that I love about Kodable is how genuinely dedicated the creators, Grechen Huebner and Jon Mattingly, are to education.  If you follow @Kodable on Twitter, you will find them involved in numerous educational Twitter chats, including the one they host, #kidscancode, every Tuesday evening at 7 PM CST.  They love connecting with and getting feedback from educators, and they are also thrilled to get involved with students through Google HangOuts, Skype, or FaceTime.

Here is a short Tellagami video from some 3rd graders in Van Meter, IA, about Kodable.

Kodable Extensions:

Tweeted on 12/11/13 by @HeatherMMcKay
Kodable Maze made with non-perishable food items, tweeted on 12/11/13 by @HeatherMMcKay

 

Programming Without a Computer

I’m finally introducing my third graders to programming.  We are studying systems thinking this year, and I feel like computer programming fits right into this.

One of my students follows instructions for navigating the obstacle course.
One of my students follows instructions for navigating the obstacle course.

This group has not been exposed to programming, yet.  So, I thought I would use a fun activity suggested by Kodable in its Learning Guide to get the ball rolling.

Kodable, for those of you who don’t know, is an iPad app specifically designed to teach kids how to code.  The first 30 levels are free (the Smeeborg portion, and then there are in-app purchases available.  The folks at Surfscore are making real efforts to include parents and educators in the learning process.  There are sections for the adults to access on the app, and it is very classroom friendly as it includes an option to add different players to the game.

Downloading the app also gives you access to learning guides with activities.  One of the activities does not even involve using the app.  A real-life obstacle course is set up, and the students use a sheet with supplied symbols to write directions for navigating the course “in code.”  They can add their own symbols to the page as well.

My classroom course included a requirement to crawl under one of our tables.  The results were hilarious.

The kids finished writing their “codes” in record time – quite confident that they had each designed the perfect directions.  I asked them to give their codes to a different student to read out loud one at a time while another student had to follow the instructions precisely. The original writers were not allowed to insert any explanations during the process.

The kids immediately saw, after one kid walked into the table with no instructions to get down to crawl under it, that their directions needed modification.  Back to the drawing board.

The second time around was better, but not by much.  There were still major flaws in their codes, resulting in kids rotating the wrong direction or crawling for half the course because the programmer forgot to include instructions to stand back up.

I think we probably could have done this activity all day.  The students were more than happy to keep refining their codes and testing them.  We finally reconvened, though, and discussed what they had learned.

  • The importance of clear communication
  • Interdependency
  • Problem solving
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • There is more than one way to achieve a result, but not all ways are the most efficient.

Since I see each grade level once a week, we will not get a chance to dig into the app itself until next Tuesday.  I am eager to see how the students transfer their physical experience to the digital one!

For more resources for Programming for Kids, visit my Pinterest Board, or this awesome Symbaloo from Shannon Miller.

Next Year Will Be Even Better – Programming for Kids

from www.tynker.com
from www.tynker.com

For many of us, at least in the United States, another school year is over.  Even as we eagerly embark on our rejuvenation journeys for the summer, you might be thinking, as I am, of new ideas for the next school year.  This week, I would like to share some of the improvements I hope to make in my classroom for the 2013-2014 school year.  Today’s post is about the benefits of teaching programming to our students.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you have probably noticed that I am a huge advocate for teaching programming to kids.  You can see this trend building in a lot of the education blogs and professional publications.  Like all trends, it needs to be done right so that it will not be a colossal failure or a “flash in the pan.” Here is why it should be done, and how I plan on doing it next year in my classroom.

Why We Should Teach Programming to Kids

I think that there is a misconception that this is all about teaching kids a new “language” that is useful in the career market. While that is, perhaps, one of the benefits, I think that it should not be the main purpose.  Programming languages evolve quickly, and teaching a specific one might be likened to teaching Latin.  It can help you to decode other languages, but it is unlikely you will use it daily.

I learned Basic when I was in high school.  I haven’t used it since.  But I still remember some very important lessons that I learned in that class that can be extrapolated for real life.

The most important lesson was that, if you are not getting the results you want, you can’t keep doing the same thing.  I remember the first couple of times a program did not work the way I wanted it to, and I kept saying to the computer, “That’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Once I realized that I only had myself to blame, I would set about finding out what I had done wrong.  This led to the next life lesson – find the real source of the problem or your “fix” will make things worse.  Sometimes I had to dig deep into the code to figure it out, but would not realize that until I had tried one or two simple revisions that would end in disaster.

When programming, you also advance through the Scientific Process, and learn to change one variable at a time if your conclusion is not what you expected.

And finally, programming is not all about logic.  Once you understand the code, you can use your imagination to create unusual, unique, and even beautiful programs.

What I Plan to Do Next Year

As some of my colleagues pointed out this year, Programming falls very easily into something that we already have in our curriculum for elementary gifted students – Systems Thinking.  Now that I am becoming familiar with Tynker through the online summer class I’m offering, I plan to use Tynker with my 3rd graders during our Systems Thinking unit.  If you want to start anywhere with programming (from about 7 or 8 years old and up), I would highly recommend Tynker as you can create classes and monitor student progress very easily.  Plus, it has an engaging curriculum of projects.

I want to weave programming throughout my K-5 gifted classes, so I will begin my Kinders with the iPad app Daisy the Dinosaur. For 1st, we will move on to Kodable, and for second, Hopscotch.  (I may switch these last 2 around – I need to play with them more to determine difficulty levels.)

3rd grade, as I mentioned, will do Tynker.  4th grade will work on Cargo-Bot.  And, 5th grade will work with Gamestar Mechanic (which is web-based).

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment.  Also, for even more links for Programming for Kids, feel free to visit my Pinterest board on this topic.