classroom teaching

Getting Ready for Clubs & Classes

I wanted to share a couple of initiatives I am undertaking, small stuff but things I’d like to share as they go on.

First, I am starting tomorrow an 8-week, 1 session per week club on LEGO Robotics, and another club on 3D Programming in JavaScript, both at the 4th-8th grade level (it looks like most of the students will be in the 4th and 5th grade, though). As much as I’d like to show how smart I am by coming up with my own dazzling curricula (is there a Nobel prize for after-school technology clubs?), I found a resource for each class that I think will work best:

  • LEGO Robotics: I think the intro curriculum made by CMU is outstanding. I plan to break up the students into pairs, show them the intro videos, do a brief demo for everyone, then let them get to work. I already have all the robots built, I decided that trying to have the kids build the robots during the class would be difficult, time-consuming, and ultimately something that would have little learning value overall. Some of course will go faster than others, so I expect about 10-15 before the end of the session, I will announce that the teams can either continue with the challenge (if they’re not done yet), or use the skills developed to try something else. I want to regroup in the last 5-10 minutes so we can discuss the challenges they encountered. I believe there will be one or two kids who have experience with the LEGO robots already — for them, I will give them more liberty to go beyond the intro challenges, and possibly enlist their help as “co-mentors” to help other teams. Another possibility is to allow them to build more advanced robots with occasional guidance from me.
  • 3D Game Programming: I am using Chris Strom’s excellent book 3D Game Programming for Kids, published by the Pragmatic Bookshelf. I started a page here that has more specific info about resources. Like in the LEGO Robotics class, I want to pair the kids (and then rotate pairings through the course).

In both classes, I expect to emphasize a theme of “Big Ideas” in Computational Thinking, which I got from the CMU curriculum (and ever-so-slightly modified). I made a poster with the Big Ideas, so we can frame the specific work in each class in terms of how it fits into the Big Ideas. The Big Ideas are:

  1. Programming is Precise
  2. Data & Acting on Data: Sensors, Programs, and Actions
  3. ‘Modeling’ a System
  4. Break Down Problems and Build up Solutions
  5. Computational Thinking Applies Everywhere

Lastly, I also started as a substitute teacher in an AP Computer Science class at a local high school. I only will fill in for 1 month, and my tasks are around “Classes, Strings, and Class Hierarchies and Interfaces” (in Java). I look forward to the opportunity of helping the students develop their problem-solving skills in addition to more mundane technical programming knowledge.

¡Viva la guerra!

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