Problem Solving – It’s Addictive!

Recently I had the privilege of teaching in several classrooms for the Hour of Code event (see last month’s TIPS post.)  No, I’m not a proficient programmer.  Although I had a couple of classes in college, so much has changed since then that I consider myself a novice at best.  Luckily basic programming has become much easier and getting started with the Hour of Code activities was really more about problem solving and logical thinking than it was about knowing a specific coding language.

Paper/pencil coding activity - Write a program to get the pirate to his treasure!

While I’m certainly a big fan of learning how to code (program), what’s more important to me is giving students a better understanding of the world in which they are totally immersed.  If we want to frame the conversation around CCR (college and career readiness), I think this is one of the most important things kids can, at a minimum, “know about”.  They may not decide to be computer scientists, but to at least be introduced to the concept and realize it’s an option for ANY kid is very important.  Not to mention the job opportunities are tremendous!

Using the Lightbot app to start programming.

But what was really fun and amazing for me in bringing this concept to classes was the chance to watch kids problem solve.  They were given tasks (both paper/pencil and tech-based) that didn’t necessarily have one right answer.  They had to work through it on their own, with a partner, with their table mates, with a teacher….  But oh the joy on their faces when they found success.  They didn’t want to stop.  (Neither did the teachers.)  They wanted harder problems and they wanted to figure out how to solve them.  It was okay to help each other.  In fact, it was encouraged.  Everyone progressed at their own pace.  Not everyone got to the same place in the end.  But everyone knew more at the end of that hour than when they began. 

But really….how do I know it was a success?  My own kids who got to experience Hour of Code lessons both came home that night and asked me if they could do some more.  Later in the week when I happened to be passing through one of the schools again, a student stopped me and thanked me for coming to her class and showing her how to code.  This is real life for today’s kids.  Let’s not keep it a secret!

7th graders tried their hand at coding their own version of the popular Flappy Bird game.

Want to give your students a chance to try coding (problem solving?)  Check out http://code.org.  The Hour of Code event focus runs through the end of December, but the resources are there year round.  January is a great time for problem solving.  But look out….you might get addicted!

(Special thanks to Ms. Phillips at Wellington and to the 7th grade science teachers at Jessie Clark who allowed my team and I to visit and teach!)

Everyone was completely absorbed with trying to program Lightbot!

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