Start Programming with Sprite Box

SpriteBox is a new app by the creators of Lightbot that introduces coding using icons to solve puzzles. The app was released in time for Computer Science Week 2016, but I just found out of it today. It works on Android, iOS, and in web browsers (using Flash).

SpriteBox combines game play using arrows to collect coins and sprites, with coding challenges. The focus is mainly on game play. The coding challenges are introduced with in the course of the game, to help solve the challenges. In this way, the play is emergent.

It’s important to note that there are some written instructions. When I tested this with a friend’s 5 year old daughter, she could sound out many of the words, but needed help to make sense of many of the instructions. The on-screen demos for using icons to solve the coding puzzles were helpful to her, but they would not be sufficient for her to figure out the game without reading assistance.

I’ve used Lightbot with children in Kindergarten, but for most of them, procedures and functions are too complex. I think that SpriteBox is more appropriate for introducing coding to the youngest children, and will present that option to Kindergarten.

Participating in Hour of Code is a great way to celebrate Computer Science. However, there is no need to confine coding to Computer Science Week, or to Hour of Code. Introduce SpriteBox to a child in your life.

Playing with Hour of Code Resources

Despite the fact that computer science week is over, all the resources for Hour of Code are still available, and can be used at any time. Here are some favorites:

I’ll write a longer post later, about Computer Science in the curriculum.

Get Coding

I’ve been talking about Hour of Code with elementary teachers at my school for the past few weeks. Hour of Code is part of Computer Science Education Week from December 8 – 14, 2014. We had a little preview in a Grade 2 class last week where students used Tynker as an introduction to Hour of Code. We tried to do something similar in Grade 1 yesterday but unfortunately, the app crashed every time the character got to the jelly bean.

Participate in Hour of Code whether you’re an adult or a child. Today (Friday, December 5) is the last day to sign up to win prizes for yourself, classroom or school. Don’t be intimidated even if you’ve never done any programming before. There are a number of resources that you can use. The platforms mentioned are available all year round but many of them have put on special activities for hour of code. For example, Code Studio has recently added in an actiivity where you can code with Elsa from Frozen.

For all ages

Lower Elementary

Upper elementary (Grades 3+)

Interested in learning more about Hour of Code from a teacher’s perspective? Check out this webinar from Brainpop. Their computer science resources are free this week.

 

Intel’s Journey Inside the Computer – Part 1

I’ve used Intel’s Journey Inside the Computer with various grade levels from 6 – 9. You can use the lessons to teach about how computers work. Depending on the grade, extend the concepts as appropriate.

My Favorite Activities (adapted from Intel curriculum) for Section 1: Introduction to Computers.

  1. Have students create a blog post to discuss the types of things they do with computers and how important the computer is for the completion of these tasks. Also have them consider what other devices they use on a regular basis that are similar.
  2. Have students create a drawing to represent their understanding of the inner workings of a computer when they use it.
  3. Have students use a tool like http://xtimeline.com/index.aspx (or something else of their choice) to create a timeline as they do the lessons.
  4. Have students complete two documents: An Information Processing Machine.doc and Computers.doc
  5. Have students write a blog post (feel free to use any media of your choice) explaining the difference between hardware and software. One option is to create a 30 second video.
  6. Have students create a blog post with the theme of what their life would be like if each student and teacher had a laptop.
  7. Have students choose one person in either the hardware or software field to create a first person biography using glogster. Extend the idea by having different students represent contributors/inventors from different decades.
  8. Have students design a device of the future.

Thinking about The Tyranny of Relevance

I advocate two strands in technology curricula: a technology integration strand where technology is embedded into core classes and a computer science strand where students study actual computer science concepts, respecting computer science as a separate field of study with its own habits of mind. The former would include things like word processing, blogging and podcasting while the latter would include programming, history and trends in technology/computer inventions, data representation, parts of a computer, computer aided design. I’m lucky in that I work at international schools so we get a chance to mold our own curriculum for ICT. When I went through the process at my last school, we discussed technology integration versus separate computer classes and decided to focus on integration in elementary and continue it in middle and high school while providing students compulsory computer classes in middle school, and elective computer courses in high school to focus on topics in the field of computer science. This was our introduction

The Integrated Curriculum – A Two Strand Approach

This curriculum uses a two-strand model, recognising that authentic technology education takes place in the context of authentic use; and recognising also that computer science is an independent discipline, whose foundational principles embody habits of mind relevant to all aspects of a student’s learning.

Thus students learn applications and explore the creative possibilities of technology in the context of their core subjects. Application of technology is therefore integrated into all subject area curricula, at all levels.

Students will be introduced to computer science concepts, particular those concepts that are relevant to other fields of study and to life. Students develop algorithmic and critical thinking processes explicitly, and learn to identify patterns in system processing, as concepts of computer science. These will be addressed within other curricular areas such as social studies, math or science, but must also be considered explicitly as topics in computer science. Therefore, this curriculum articulates skills and understandings in computer science as a separate strand.

The ICT curriculum at the middle school level has a required computer science component at each grade level and learn its value and importance in society. At the high school level, computer science courses are offered on an elective basis.

Relevance in and of itself is not a bad thing. Students may have better chance of constructing understanding of spreadsheets if we create one to plan a class party instead of using random worksheets. Relevance becomes a tyrant when the emphasis on it overshadows all else resulting in a lack of balance and the disservice of never exposing our students to the field of computer science.

Some topics that could be covered in a computer science class has connections to other subjects e.g. graph theory to Math(s) and extracting information from data is important in many subjects, computer aided design to art etc. We should highlight those connections where possible so that students learn about computer science, as well as it’s relationship to other fields.

Desiring relevance for educational technology is not the problem, doing so to the exclusion of computer science is.

Written in response to http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2010/3/10/the-tyranny-of-relevance.html by Terry Freedman.