Our class had some experience with coding because a few weeks ago scholars learned to code a Roamer Robot to navigate through a giant maze. During that engineering investigation, I noticed that the skill of coding demands problem solving, effective communication, and perseverance; something I always want to promote with my scholars. My scholars love working with coding apps on iPads - they especially like Tynker, Bee-Bot, Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur. So, as I was thinking about this challenge, I knew I wanted to do something a little different, something with a new kind of coding challenge. Among the resources provided by GCISD for this challenge, I came across an 'unplugged' version for teaching coding called My Robotic Friends.
Through the My Robotic Friends investigation, scholars built upon their code writing skills but also learned a very important new skill: debugging. Learning to debug code fits in so nicely with the 'improve' stage of the engineering design process!
My Robotic Friends requires that scholars build a cup tower then write code to guide their 'robot' partner in rebuilding the exact same tower using only code language.
We practiced one sample together then partners got to work.
As you can see, the kids were totally engaged! They were imagining, planning, building, testing and improving, and then reimagining all as a natural part of this investigation.
To make this investigation even more fun and to add a bigger collaboration piece to the learning, I invited fellow kinder teacher, Sandi Hill (HES), to learn with us. We have collaborated with Mrs. Hill's class before and it's always a big hit with the kids. We decided that each class would write a code for a cup tower for the other class, then tweet it out on Friday morning. Once receiving the code, classes would build the tower, then tweet back a pic. I have to say that on Friday morning, before the kids were even unpacked, they were asking, 'Did you check Twitter yet?'!
Here is the code we sent out:
And here a pic of the challenge sent to us:
Clearly the codes look different! I didn't even know what to do with this code! We looked at it together and noticed a pattern of 'step backward' commands. We hadn't used any of those in our own code writing. We quickly realized that we NEVER wrote commands for the robot to move the hand back to the starting point! It was time to debug! So, we made the changes to our code and resent it.
We then got to work on building the cup tower using the code sent to us from Mrs. Hill's class. We noticed that they only used 1 'pick up cup' command when moving up multiple levels - so we helped them debug that.
During this process one child said, "This is great! They helped us debug our problem and now we're helping them!" #collaboration
By the end of the day, we hadn't received a tweet back with a pic of the tower code we sent to Mrs. Hill's class, so the excitement of this project lives on until Monday!
As a final project, Scholars were asked to share their learning by creating a PicCollage that included both code and a pic of a new cup tower.
As I sat back and watched (yes, watched - they didn't need me), I reflected on how far this group of kindergartners have come over the last 9 months. In this particular task, they had all the technology, engineering and collaboration skills necessary to be independent and successful. #selfregulatedlearners
Special thanks to @SandiHillie for playing with us! I always learn new things when we collaborate!