Teaching Coding 3: Anything is Possible

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code-org_logoThree days is not enough to teach coding, nor is an hour. So when I tried to figure out how to squeeze coding into three class periods for all of the students I teach, I wasn’t sure how to make it work.  I wanted them to understand what coding was and how it worked.  Just as importantly, I wanted them to understand what was possible.  So many things in the world are made with code and so many more will be made with code in their lifetimes.

To introduce them to the possibilities, we worked with Ozobots.  Our school had purchased 30 of them last year to start incorporating more robotics and coding into the curriculum.  This was the first opportunity for many of the students to take control of a tiny robot on their own.  The first, and possibly most challenging step for the classes was understanding how to tell the Ozobot that you wanted to upload code from the computer.

Ozobots work by reading colored lines on paper.  They also work by interpreting a series of flashing colors that their Blockly coding program translates for the Ozobot.  This allowed the students to work in a format they were more comfortable using while still taking control of the robot through code.  It took many of them several minutes to get the process down.  I explained it by saying it was exactly like our unplugged activity.  If you are not deliberate and exact in the way you prepare your Ozobot for acquiring your code, it will not know you are giving it code.

Within ten minutes almost everyone in all of the classes had the process down fairly well.  They were following the shapes in the Ozobot Shape Tracer game and so many of them were excited to see their code come to life.  I saw so many students finding solutions, helping others, and getting excited about what they were creating.  My favorite part of the activity was the overwhelming excitement of the girls in my classes.  The girls I taught were more into coding these robots than anything we have done in class this year.  I had many girls ask about purchasing them, but even more exciting was that most of my best helpers were also girls. These tiny robots captured

These tiny robots captured the imaginations of my students.  At the end of three days of coding, I spent a moment reflecting with my classes.  Why did we do this? By the time many of them hit the legal driving age, self-driving cars will start to be more prevalent, labor jobs will be even more automated, and everything from your refrigerator to your light bulbs are going to be running on code.  The possibilities are endless.  Silly video games and tiny robots are not the end, they are the beginning.  Where they choose to take it is only limited by the possibilities they can imagine.

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