Apps, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, Games, K-12, Problem Solving

Computer Programming for Kids

Lego Mindstorms Robot

In yesterday’s post about the iPad app, Daisy the Dinosaur, I referenced some ways to introduce kids to computer programming.  For those of you who want to pursue this further, I thought you might like this post by Marshall Brain, “Teaching Your Kids How to Write Computer Programs”.  This is a fairly detailed summary of different websites and other resources for learning basic programming skills.  “Light Bot” is a website that he recommends for students who are 7 or 8 years old.  He also gives a summary of the Lego Mindstorms program, which I highly recommend for schools or other organizations.  There are links for learning how to code and how to design apps as well.  “Teaching Your Kids How to Write Computer Programs” is definitely a good place to start if you are a teacher or parent looking for this type of resource.  Two more resources?  Gamestar Mechanic (website) and Sketch Nation Studio (iPad app), both referenced in my post on Genius Hour, Part III.

3-12, Creative Thinking, Education, Independent Study, Motivation, Student Products

Genius Hour Update, Part II

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I would be trying a “Genius Hour” with my 5th grade GT students.  You can read this post and this post to find out about the origins of this idea.  Click here to read about The Beginning of our project.
First – a little background.  I teach 13 5th grade Gifted and Talented students once a week from 8:45-1:30.  Many of these students have been in my GT class since Kindergarten, so they know me and the other students fairly well.  All of these factors might make it a bit easier for them to take risks than students in a regular classroom.  

The Middle

As our Genius Hours continued, the students began to get interested in each other’s projects.  Many of the kids were using Weebly for the first time, to create websites.  They would end up criss-crossing the room to consult each other on such things as how to make logos or to embed games into their sites.  Several of them were confounded by our district’s filters as they tried to access sites they could easily jump to at home, and quite a few of them got lessons from me on copyright violations.

A few of the groups decided to make websites that linked to fun games.  This led to not a little time being spent on playing the games to “make sure they are appropriate for school”.  We ended up having a conversation during one of our feedback sessions about whether or not they were making the best use of their Genius Hour by doing this.  They agreed that the games could be explored at home during the week instead.

The one student I absolutely could not help was fortunately one of the most self-motivated.  He had decided that he was going to make a remote-control robot.  He brought all of the materials from home, and took them back home each week so his grandfather could aid him with the tough parts, like welding and figuring out electrical circuits.

Two other students had selected a project that would be done, for the most part, outside of Genius Hour.  They wanted to start a tutoring group to help kids with Science.  They used their Genius Hour time to make a poster advertising the tutoring group, write letters to the teachers explaining their proposal, and to find support materials.

One of my students wanted to design a video game, so I introduced him to Gamestar Mechanic.  He basically got all he wanted out of it in three sessions, and started wandering around to help others with their projects.  Then I showed him Sketch Nation Studio on the iPad and he was back in business.

The variety of interests and projects was exciting.  We were all learning, and I kept hoping that an administrator would walk in during our Genius Hour to observe the engagement amongst the students.  When I was a little girl and pictured myself as a teacher, this was exactly the image that I had in my head – kids enthusiastically taking responsibility for their own learning.

Come back tomorrow for the final post in my Genius Hour series!

The “homemade” logo made by one pair of students for their gaming site