Thinking with a 21st Century Twist

Last week, students across Fayette County were creating snowflakes with Elsa and Anna, figuring out how to get Flappy Bird through a series of pipes and tinkering around with other software programs designed to explore the elements of computer science through building blocks of code.  While the week was called Hour of Code, it hit on many thinking skills necessary to make students career and college ready for this century.

When a problem seems really big, break it into smaller parts.

One skill that many students work on when coding happens to be breaking a problem into smaller parts.  The Hour of Code tutorials do a great job of scaffolding this thinking for students, but the skill is applicable in many other places.  Students getting ready for a SumoBot competition last week needed to program a LEGO robot to stay within a white circle on a round board while trying to disable or push the opponent off the board.  This complex problem is simplified when students break the task into smaller pieces:
(1) Determine the threshold for the light sensor
(2) Write a simple program to see if the robot “sees” the white line
(3) Modify the program to tell the robot to move in a certain way when it sees the white line and when it sees the black circle
(4) Determine how you will detect the opponent- ultrasonic sensor or touch sensor or both.�
(5) Determine placement for the sensors…

 Whether it is writing a paper for a class, a large project, or figuring out a complex math problem, breaking problems into smaller pieces is a skill that is used across curriculum. 

Order matters

Another thinking skill addressed in the idea of sequence.  In coding, the programmer needs to tell the computer exactly what to do and those small steps need to be in the right order.  Several of the unplugged activities for Hour of Code focused on this idea of sequence.  From following steps to correctly stack cups to writing directions for a friend to navigate a LEGO pirate to the treasure chest, students had to think about direction from different perspectives and put the steps in order. 

Sequence is another skill that is found in different content areas as well.

One thing can cause another thing to happen

In social studies, reading or science we may refer to this thinking as cause and effect.  In coding, students explored programming “events” that triggered the computer to run a set of commands.  In Scratch software, an event may be the click of the green flag for a sprite to speak, pressing the space bar or arrow keys for the sprite to move or simply moving the mouse and have a sprite follow.

Other  skills associated with coding include communication, debugging, iteration, remixing and reusing, questioning and experimenting. 

For kids, the thinking is just a part of having fun and creating with tools for this century.  Do you think you would like to try out coding?  Try out some of the tutorials on Hour of Code and see what thinking skills you are using! http://hourofcode.com/us

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