Reaction 8: Computational Thinking

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Articles this week:

Grover, S.; Pea, R. (2013). Computational Thinking in K-12: A Review of the State of the Field. Educational Researcher. 42(38): 38-43.

Berland, M., & Lee, V. R. (2011). Collaborative strategic board games as a site for distributed computational thinking. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 1(2), 65-81.

Resnick, M. (2012). Reviving Papert’s Dream. Educational Technology. 52(4): 42-46.

 

Since I’m familiar with computational thinking, I also read Berland & Lee’s article about students playing the board game Pandemic, and I went back to a Scratch project I haven’t worked on in awhile and attempted a little debugging.

My favorite quote was this: “None of the groups understood the rules by reading through the guidebooks without attempting to play through the rules” (Berland & Lee, 2011). The idea of “playing through the rules,” I realized, is how I have approached learning with students because it’s how I approach my own learning. If it’s science, I need to see or do something. If it’s Twitter, sign me up and write a few tweets. If it’s Tinkercad, drag and drop a few objects, then ask why or how it works. I learn rules by interacting with them, not by thinking about them.

This low barrier to entry (sign up and start) is the idea of “low floor, high ceiling,” which has been “one of the guiding principles for the creation of programming environments for children … since the days of LOGO.” (Grover & Pea, 2013) Whether it’s Tinkercad or Pixel art, programs or suites of programs have embraced an easy entrance and seemingly unlimited complexity. (As an interesting aside, this might be an interesting antidote to what Sennett negatively describes as our modern passion for consuming incredibly powerful devices that we never use to their full potential. We might Continue reading “Reaction 8: Computational Thinking”

MIT’s App Inventor (or, What I’ve been up to)

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This weekend I learned how to programs apps for Android in order to do a computer science badge with the Girl Scouts. I had volunteered last fall to do an activity with them as a way to encourage girls towards computer careers.

Reflections:

  1. If finally makes sense to me why we teach Scratch. When I saw the blocks editor, I recognized the format immediately – and so did the 4th graders. They caught on pretty quickly, even if my explanations weren’t quite as practiced as would have been helpful.
  2. The girls had AMAZING ideas for apps. One where you bounce on a trampoline and try to break a glass ceiling. (As I was standing there teaching programming to girls, there was some meta awareness about them designing a game to break a glass ceiling.) One where you are animals and have to fight poachers. Another one where you get to go to a virtual school and experience what a day is like – wouldn’t that be an amazing tool for kids new a school from a very different background if they could walk through a day, kind of like an orientation? Sounds like this game from GLS.
  3. I love that I have a job where I get to learn new things with kids.
  4. In developing a pK-12 computer science curriculum, I think we need to decide which language we’re going to teach. I’m thinking right now it would make sense to begin with scratch and teach that up until midway through 6th grade, javascript from mid-6th grade through 8th grade, then java in upper school. Whichever we decide, I have more learning to do!