Defining flowcharts and UML diagrams.

August 30, 2011 at 5:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
As we moved on to building abstract models of different projects, I introduced the students to flowcharts and UML diagrams.  They explored the concept and played around with the different tools. On Monday we will examine a simpler problem and start drawing actual flowcharts.
We revisited the question “what is abstraction?” I was quite surprised and impressed with the answers. One of the students answered “abstraction is a process of taking a specific detail and making it general.” Excellent answer! We are one step closer to getting a good grasp of abstraction.

Making an Abstract model of Lightbots

August 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
We started Abstraction by trying to define what it is. While it was hard for the students to define it, they had plenty of examples!  Many compared it to Abstract art. I explained that in order to find a solution to a problem or to simulate an existing environment we first have to create an abstract model.
For the first step in teaching them abstraction I decided we would do a little reverse engineering. Students will work in pairs on taking a known program like Lightbots and create an abstraction. They will do this in two steps. First I asked them to write down the steps to creating a program like this. Then I told them that based on these steps many will later be able to write a program for this, introducing the concept of an algorithm without even mentioning the word. It took some effort for the students to not write instructions on how to use the program and to rethink the problem from a programmer’s perspective. I plan on using the word, abstraction, everyday so that they can get used to it and will start thinking what the word could actually mean with respect to computer science.
 Tomorrow, I am going to have students draw flowcharts for this problem. If Lightbots is too complicated, I might change the problem. We will see…

Student projects

August 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Open-ended projects are in that they allow students to keep adding more to their project.  The Impact of Computer Science topic has ended nicely with students producing outstanding projects. The different topics that students worked on included movies, animation graphic, robotics, social media, cyber security, internet marketing, communications and more!
Students worked in pairs with a partner of their choosing. The only condition was that it could not be someone that they had worked with before. Each pair chose a different tool to present.  Students used Adobe Flash, Adobe After-Effects, Scratch, Xtranormal, Alice and many others. It seemed like some students felt rushed and would have appreciated a little more time.
Bringing the topic to a closing end, I asked students to reflect on how important they thought computer science education was.  The majority felt that it was necessary to have a good understanding of computer science, even if they weren’t going to major in it. The reasons varied for this varied. Some said it was essential to keep up with technology and others thought that it was one of the few career options that provided a stable job. An interesting idea that I heard was that computer science had actually created new degrees and opportunities for students to excel in previously unexplored areas.

What kinds of jobs does computer science offer?

August 18, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The presentations on the Social Impacts of Computer Science are progressing well. Students have enjoyed working with their various Web 2.0 Tools. They are working in pairs and they have a rubric by which they will be evaluated. Presentations start tomorrow. There was a lot of discussion among the team members as they worked on their projects. Some of the challenges I saw them face were related to trying to figure out what kinds of jobs were coming up as the result of specific technological advancements.

I have started planning out the next two weeks. I am going to introduce the concept of abstraction. I want the students to try and wrap their minds around the idea of abstraction. I am planning to get the students to create flowcharts for simple problems (both on paper and on the computer.) The next step is to create UML diagrams for slightly bigger projects. More as things progress.

Impact of Computer Science

August 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lightbots concluded very nicely with the students creating their own levels. The level editor is quite powerful. One of the girls created a really neat problem with a lot of conditionals!  By going and playing with another team’s puzzles they interacted with each other and challenged each other. I asked them to reflect on their experience with LightBots and how it was related to programming. One student said, “it was a good experience and a great ice-breaker.” Another student said that while at first some levels seemed impossible, the straightforward commands “gave you the feeling of simplicity”.

We started today trying to understand the impact of computer science on society. I find that students have quite a good idea of the different ways that computer science impacts society. During a brainstorming session,  ideas of ways that were thrown out were communication, music, shopping, movies, social media, motion sensing, video gaming, e-books and many more.  As a project activity students paired up and chose one of the topics to research and create a presentation on (using one of the Web 2.0 tools).  As I write this students are still picking out their research topics and picking out a tool. There was a lot of excitement in the class as I went around and spoke to the students.

First Week!

August 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The first three days have been great! I talked up the course and kept throwing the question to the students: “What do you think computer science is?”  I got all kinds of answers.

  • Programming
  • Making the computer do what you want it to do
  • Computer Science includes hardware
  • Understanding / comprehending the capability of computers
    And others.

One student’s answer of “hardware” posed the question “should computer science include hardware?”  My response was yes; it includes hardware… but from what perspective? Is it understanding the terminology?  Is it understanding how to put it together and how to wire it? Or is it to understand the actual operations and how to make a computer hardware work?

I expect that as time goes on, the students understanding of what computer science is will expand and become more refined.

Lightbots 2.0 is a great success! Students have just started working and solving the various tutorials.  One of the students said “I like this class! We get to play games.” They will be creating their own levels the rest of the week and testing each other’s games. It should be interesting and fun. Teaching students the need for modularity and use of functions is very easy in Lightbots 2.0. It is the best tool I have seen so far to explain functions.

We are going to finish this week with the question “How is using Lightbots 2.0 related to programming?”  The students’ answers should be insightful.

School starts Monday

August 6, 2011 at 3:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Orientation day was on Thursday – “Super Thursday”  as we call in at our school. I spoke to a lot of parents and students who had signed up for the class. I explained that CS Principles is a Computer Science course for a student who may not want to major in CS. The overall reaction was very positive. Once student even exclaimed…. “I want to be a psychologist and so this is a perfect course for me”.

I handed out a copy of the COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSES And TRACKS document. It was exciting to see all the interest it has generated. On my website, I have a blurb about this course. Among other things, I have  created a comparison chart between the current curriculum  as given by our district / State and the Big Ideas in CS Principles. I have also created a pacing guide.  How much I follow this pacing guide depends on the class.

Monday we are going to start using LightBots 2.0 from Armor Games. After the 1st four tutorials getting students into small discussion groups should be interesting.  A 10 minute reflection should be appropriate.

More later once school starts….

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