What did I try that I’ve never tried before in my classroom?
The past three weeks I have been in the process of introducing Computer Science to my Genius Hour class. We started these first three weeks by breaking down what is computer science? how are we going to learn about computer science in genius hour? and why it is important?
Computer science is more than coding. It is a problem-solving process which can be applied to any problem in any situation. Coding in part is only a small piece to the process which actually involves programming, computer science, and computational thinking. To start the discussion of what is computer science we need to do a couple of short labs.
Our first lab, students were placed in groups to design a boat from a piece of aluminum foil 5 inches by 5 inches to hold as many pennies as possible in a tub of water. I like these types of activities because there is not a predetermined outcome. Students have to collaborate and work together to solve the problem. Students first had to come up with a goal, devise a plan and put that plan into actions by testing the boat in a tub of water. They were then given a second piece of foil to do a second test. Before the second test, the students had to evaluate their results from the first test, discuss any design changes and retest. After the second test, students had to report their results to the class. They could choose how they reported between Google Presentations or an oral report using the documents camera (made from an iPad and PVC pipe using the AirScanner App, http://www.qrayon.com/home/airscanner/)
At the end of the lab, I asked them how are the Scientific method and computer science problem-solving process similar? Different? The students could see how they were similar when it came to experiment and try as well as conclusion and reflect. The difference was more apparent to them in that the computer science model only had four steps and the scientific method had six. The concept I wanted to stress was one is more focused on solving a problem where the other tends to focus on gaining knowledge about a subject.
In the second lesson, we go into depth about the process of Define, prepare, try and reflect. The lesson began by having the students brainstorm and use the Answer Garden web site (https://answergarden.ch/) to give feedback on all the different problems they face each day. This was difficult for them at first, because they did really want to share. It took time for them to really think about the issues they face each day. I gave them time to share with each other and then post a second time to Answer Garden. This time the problems were more thought out and we then began applying the four steps to the top problems each group came up with. At the end of the lesson, we collected a list of useful ways to address each problem.
The third and final lesson we just introduced, deals with applying the problem-solving process to three different activities. They are: Word search, arranging a seating chart for a party and planning a trip. I will give some feedback next time out how this final activity goes. The objective of the final activity is to apply the problem-solving process.
What questions are nagging me? What do I wonder about?
The big question for me is what is it going to be like going back to school. It’s been a long time since I have had homework, sat in a class etc. I am a little nervous about writing papers, something that is not my strength. Presentations – no problem -projects – no problem, demonstrations – no problem. I think you get the idea. I have never used APA formatting, but did some research on-online and feel a little better about it. I am wondering what it’s going to be like taking a class with my son as a peer and not DAD. I’m not sure he sees it the same way.
Computer Science Problem Solving Process: