Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Abstraction and The Logical Journey of the Zoombini's

Abstraction is another one of the Computational Thinking concepts we talk about during Computer Science classes.  It's an important step  in creating a solution to a larger problem.  Abstraction is defined as "focusing on what is important and ignoring what is unnecessary."

In the code.org puzzles my district uses as the core curriculum, many times students are given a lot of coding blocks and are asked to rearrange and remove any blocks aren't needed.  The focus of these lessons is on debugging and the word abstraction is never mentioned in the directions or hints given within the puzzle.  I mention it, of course -- but find that many of my students don't really make the connection.

One of my favorite ways to talk about abstraction and have students practice this skill is by pacifying Arno, the almost omnivorous Pizza Troll using the program The Logical Journey of the Zoombini's.  

In this logic game, students are asked to create the perfect pizza for Arno.  Each time you play the game he wants different toppings and you have to use the visual and verbal clues given to decide which toppings are "eewwwww GROSS" or which ones he likes.

Arno blocks the path so the Zoombini's can not move on. In order for him to move, the user must use the pizza topping buttons to serve up the perfect pizza. 

As I teach this lesson, I encourage my students to look closely at the pizzas that Arno has been served and what he does with them.  If he likes a topping, but wants MORE, he will save it for later.  (I explain to the kids that I will eat a pepperoni pizza  -- but I really like pepperoni and sausage. They totally get this....)  If Arno, however despises a certain topping, he will throw it into the dump in front of him.

In this example, you can see that Arno is not fond of pineapple or mushrooms. He has thrown them into the dump. The other toppings he likes -- so he has saved them for later. Can you decide what would be his PERFECT pizza??
Using abstraction skills -- we can tell that Arno is not at all interested in pineapple or mushroom.  As the pizza maker/programmer, I would ignore those toppings and not use them in my final recipe/algorithm.  The other toppings are all useful to me -- since he likes them.  I would make a perfect pizza for Arno using peppers, pepperoni, and cheese.
HINT!!!  Presenting Arno with pizzas that only have one topping at a time is a critical act in determining what he likes.  He gives very vague comments if he doesn't like an ingredient.

"There is something there I don't like!"    "Ewwww....Gross!"

If you present a pizza with 3 toppings and only one is an ingredient he isn't fond of -- it's not very easy to guess which one it is.

As the game levels progress -- the student is introduced to two more pizza trolls -- each with their own likes and dislikes.  The pizza machine also expands to produce an ice cream dessert with up to three different toppings.

In the harder levels, you will meet Arno's friends -- Willa and Shyler. Each have their own likes and dislikes.

It's very helpful for students to have some sort of way to take notes and record data as they discover it.  A simple table would be great.  Here is one that I use with my students.  Click here or on the image to see it full size and download it if you like.



Pizza Pass is just one of the 12 amazing Computational Thinking and Logic games that are part of Zoombini's.  In future posts, I hope to share some more of my favorite puzzles in this awesome program.  Zoombini's is available to play on STEAM (computer play) -- or via the Apple App Store or Google Play .


Monday, October 9, 2017

Awesome Sauce

During the last few lessons in Third Grade, we have been learning about Nested Loops.  A nested loop is a loop inside of loop.  We’ve used them in our Code.org lessons to move and collect things and to draw shapes and designs.


As an extension, we did the Awesome Sauce Challenge in Scratch.  Students were given nine blocks that they had to use in a program.  They had a start block (when green flag is clicked), a move block, a turn right and left, a repeat block, a change color, a set pen size, a pen up, and a pen down.  Each one must be used at least once.  They can re-use any block any amount of times.  They also have permission to change the variables in the blocks to make each one unique.  They were also encouraged to experiment with using Nested Loops.
The goal was to PLAY and CREATE a unique and amazing digital design — AWESOME SAUCE!!   Check out some of our sauciest creations!!

What can you create? 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Decomposition

I teach Computer Science to some pretty amazing elementary kids.  Much of our time is spent doing lessons, puzzles, and activities from the Code.org curriculum.  We use Scratch and The Foos -- we play with Robots. We learn how to think through problems and find the most effective (and efficient) solution.  To do this, we start talking about five parts of computational thinking (Decomposition, Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, Algorithm Design, and Debugging) as early as Kindergarten.
Decomposition was the focus of this weeks Kindergarten lesson.  Decomposition is defined as breaking something into smaller parts.  With the “littles”, I introduced the idea with the following two websites from abcya.com :  Shapes Construction and Tangrams.  Both of these sites use “smaller parts” to build and create a larger image.  Decomposition in reverse…. so to speak.  The students and I talked about all the pieces and parts that are needed to build a house.
A roof!  Doors!  We need WINDOWS!  You have to have a floor!
After our discussion, I opened the Shapes Construction site and we talked about the design that we needed to create.  The design had been broken into all of its smaller parts and were listed at the bottom.  Our job was to put the design back together.  Boy — did they have fun!

After a few levels, the activity ramped up and students were asked to complete the design with out some of the lines.  They had to look at the “mirror” image and recreate it.  (We had a nice talk about symmetry and reflections.)

Adding to this lesson, I had the kids work on another activity in abcya.com.  This time we went to the Tangram activity.  The concept is very much the same — but this time the students needed to “debug” the shapes.  Many times the shape needed to be rotated to fit in the puzzle.  Students had to identify which shape was needed and then how to make it fit by using the tools to rotate it.  The first level was full of helps — each shape was it’s own color and the targets were clearly outlined.

The upper levels became a little more challenging.  First, all the shapes became the SAME color.  Then, much to the Kinders chagrin — they lost the outline of the targets.  

After a couple of reminders that
“They are the smartest and most amazing kindergarteners EVER!!”
they decided that they could indeed do anything they tried……..and they did.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Finally! Osmo Coding!!


Here is an excerpt of an email I received from Osmo the other day :


Dear Osmo-Friend,  
Computer programming is one of the most important skills for the future. We set out to create the easiest way for kids to learn the basics of coding through something they already understand and love: building blocks.
Osmo Coding uses hands-on physical blocks to control Awbie, a playful character who loves delicious strawberries.  Each block is a coding command that directs Awbie on a wondrous tree-shaking, strawberry-munching adventure.  
This makes me SO excited.  I have a couple of Osmo's in my classroom and my students have had a great time using them.  Since I teach Computer Science, I am really excited about using this new component to help reinforce the coding principles that I am having my students learn.

Check out the video they have highlighting this new tool:


I ordered my add-on today!  If you want to try Osmo for yourself -- use this link  - and if you are one of the first five to do so - you will get $5.00 off any full kit that is ordered!  

Happy Summer!  


Friday, April 22, 2016

Code Like A Boss - NETA 2016

Another presentation at NETA 2016 in the books!!  My great friend Susan Prabulos (if you haven't checked out her blog, The Digital Scoop - go and do it NOW!) and I had a great time sharing some of our favorite Computer Science lessons with our friends and colleagues at the Nebraska Educational Technology Association Spring Conference.

If you want to go beyond the Hour of Code and do more coding and programming with your students -- check out some of these fun projects and lessons!

Enjoy!









Thursday, April 21, 2016

NETA 2016 Technology Treasures Presentation

I had the privilege of presenting yet another session with my good friend Susan Prabulos today at the NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) Spring Conference.

Our session today highlighted some of our favorite apps, web 2.0 tools, and other "treasures".  Susan has posted our session on Slideshare, as well as providing a link to the slides on her blog The Digital Scoop!  Check it out!



Neta Technology Treasures 2016 Presenation from sprabul

Have fun -- reach out if you have some other great tools to share!


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Adventures with BreakoutEDU


It was right around January 2016 that I first heard about BreakoutEDU.  As a fan of the Escape Room, I was intrigued but didn't really think about adopting it into my bag of tricks at school.  My friend Lynne (my own personal BreakoutEDU goddess), however, convinced me after a time to give it a try and so I purchased some of the needed items to make it happen.  I was excited to have them arrive.   I took the locks out and opened them, turned the black light flash light on and off, unlocked and locked the 3 digit combo box.... but then, they sat.  Waiting to be used..... waiting for me to find my inspiration...and the courage to try.

Then, a few weeks later, the BreakoutEDU goddess (aka Lynne) invited me over to her home for a Breakout party.  After three or four games, I was hooked.  More importantly, I was ready to try it with my students.



BreakoutEDU games focus on collaboration, teamwork, critical thinking, persistence, and logic.  Teams work together to solve complex puzzles that will provide them a code or combination of letters, numbers, or directions to open a various number of locks.  The goal is to break IN to a box (or series of boxes) to win the game.  Any content area can be adapted and made into a BreakoutEDU game.  There is a BreakoutEDU movement going on and there are some really creative educators who are willing to share their exciting and innovative games.  FOR FREE!!!  You can learn more about how to purchase an "official" kit from BreakoutEDU.com or get them via Amazon -- and view all the lessons that have been created using this link. There is also a very active Facebook group that you can join.  I have learned so many wonderful tricks from that group of educators.  


So far, we have tried a Digital Citizenship Breakout and one called Break the Code!  The Digital Citizenship Breakout covers cyberbullying, understanding your digital footprint, copyright and fair use, and determining relevancy and accuracy of a website.  All of these topics are the subject of discussions and activities I have led in previous years -- but NEVER have I seen such active participation and attention given to these topics.  The students were totally invested.  We did this Breakout as a full class activity.  We discussed not only the content of the lessons -- but how we could use the information as clues to the locks.  We discussed the process of looking for clues and how to use them to our advantage.  The students, at the end of the class, were begging for another Breakout the next time we met....but they wanted to try it without my help!  They were hooked!

The following week, we did Break the Code.  Students needed to solve some Code.org puzzles, translate a binary number into decimal, and learn about coding in schools around the world. I divided the kids into two groups (about 9-10 kids in each) and also divided the room into two halves.  I had two sets of everything on each side of the room.  I explained the concept of the game and went over the rules again.  I also told them the boundaries of their area and told them to collaborate with their team to be the first to break into all of the boxes.  

At first, the kids were running amok.  It was like Black Friday at Target!  I was a little frightened that I had made a mistake -- but then -- miraculously, the volume settled and they started to really find their groove.  There were a couple of hiccups along the way, a few exasperated LOUD sighs from students who weren't being heard the first time, and a handful of snarky remarks -- but the did it.  They worked together and overcame the challenges.  EVERY group broke into the boxes within the 45 minute time frame.  

At the end of the class, we debriefed and talked through the activity -- what went well vs. what needed work.  They gave a great amount of consideration into what they were telling me.  Some of my favorite take-aways from our conversations are:

  • We learned that it isn't always easy to be willing to listen to another persons ideas -- especially when we "always think we know better".  
  • Collaboration can be "exciting -- but really hard.  You have to notice how other people are feeling and if they are being included".  
  • "Sometimes the answer is right in front of your face.  You just have to being willing to see it."

BreakoutEDU is one of my new favorite things.  I can't wait to try out some more of the fun games and activities that my colleagues around the world are creating -- and I can't wait to try and and create my OWN games to share with them.  I encourage you to investigate BreakoutEDU.  Give it a try.  








Friday, February 5, 2016

I can be Brave....

Being BRAVE is the #1 rule in my classroom.  I want my students to always dare to try.  Dare to fail. Dare to succeed.  Learning can happen in many forms.  Only when we are brave and TRY, do we truly discover how far we can go.

One of my favorite stories is Brave Irene by William Steig.  I remember reading it as a child and it has always stuck with me.  I have the Scholastic Video Collection DVD that has this story (it also has The Dot (by Peter Reynolds) and Amazing Grace (by Mary Hoffman) on it as well) and recently shared it with my First Graders.  They loved it!!

After they watched the video, we discussed how Irene showed bravery.  The children were actively participating in this conversation and really seemed to relate to Irene.  I asked them how they have shown bravery in their own lives.  I was amazed at some of the answers.  I heard everything from taking swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, moving to a new school, and even going to my grandma's funeral.  (That one broke my heart!)   I have a some pretty brave students!!

I recently was reminded about ABCya's Story Maker by my friend and fellow blogger, Susan, from The Digital Scoop.  She gives a really good break down of the website and how to use it in one of her latest posts.  I decided to show my "littles" how to navigate the program and asked them to draw a picture of them doing something that required them to be brave.  We then used the text part of story maker to write a small caption that explains their picture.  They turned out AMAZING!  We are going to be putting them up in the hallway and making a "Hall of Bravery".  I am so excited!


How are YOU brave?  

PS -- If you don't have the DVD that referenced above you can use this link to have the story read to you by Al Gore on Storylineonline.net




Friday, January 15, 2016

Code Like A Boss - FETC 2016

My great friend and colleague, Susan Prabulos, and I were asked to speak once again at FETC - Future of Education Tecnology Conference - this week.  We presented a session titled "Code Like A Boss".  

We had a great time collecting all the projects and ideas for this session and hope that you find them useful!  

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!  Our information is located in the slides.





Monday, October 5, 2015

Scratch Idioms



One of the favorite things my kiddos love to work with is Scratch - the coding and programming application by wonderful folks at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.  They LOVE learning about all the possible ways to create and code using this program.  

As I was looking through some curriculum connections, I ran across a lesson I used to do with Idioms using Photoshop Elements.  Students would use the tools to draw an image that was a literal interpretation of the idiom.  If the student had the idiom, "Painting the town red" -- they would draw a city scene and have a little figure painting everything red.  Pretty fun!  However, I realized that it would be even MORE fun to try and have the kids use the tools and commands in Scratch to create a mini animation of an idiom.  

I spent some time talking about what an idiom is ... and that it could have a literal meaning ... as well as the more appropriate figurative meaning.  Everyone agreed that the literal meaning is very funny when you stop and think about it.  After I explained the concept of our assignment and reviewed some of the basic commands they may need to use -- the kids "took off like a jet plane".  

We are having such a great time trying to make our idioms come to life with coding.  Below are a couple of examples....hope you find this "easy as pie".  



When Pigs Fly  
To see the Scratch Animation, click the link - https://goo.gl/GQ04LP



Butterflies in my stomach
To see the Scratch Animation, click the link - https://goo.gl/qnnOhA

Get Scratchin' Friends!  


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fun with FotoJet


I was recently asked to check out and review a fun new photo site called FotoJet.  There are a lot of collage creators and sites that allow the user to mash up their favorite photos -- many of which I have used -- but I really enjoyed checking out all of the templates and features that FotoJet has to offer.  

One thing that I noticed right away is that it's all FREE!  Everything from creating covers or posts for Facebook to Baby Announcements to Anniversary or Thank You cards.  FREE!  They even have sample pages and tutorials on how to make certain types of pages.  

First -- Choose your design!


There are tons of great designs to choose from.  Classic designs like many of the other sites out there are available, as well as some really fabulous templates (modern, art, 3D, etc).  Pick one and get started -- or do like I do and play around with LOTS of them to find just the right one!



 Second -- Add your photos!

FotoJet allows you to add photos directly from your computer or Facebook account.  I found that adding from my Albums in Facebook was very easy -- and I could also grab my images from folders on my computer or DropBox just as quickly.  

Pictures are brought in to a gallery space on the left of the screen and you can import them where you want by dragging and dropping them onto the template that you chose.  You could also click the autofill button to have them placed for you.

If the template you chose has text -- you can use the text tools to change font, size, and color!!
  
I was also pleased to a photo editor/filter in FotoJet.  After you bring an image into the template, you can apply filters (similar to iPhoto, Instagram, etc), zoom in, flip it horizontally or vertically, even get into the nitty gritty and change exposure, hue and saturation, contrast, and brightness.  


Third -- Share and Save your collage!

After you have made your beautiful new collage, you can save it directly to Facebook or download as a .jpg or .png with a quick click of your mouse.  Simple!


Check out some of the great FotoJet SAMPLES -- or better yet -- check it out for yourself and make your own.  I am adding this to my bag of tricks and will be using it with my students at school.  I can see them making me some great new Class Expectation posters, vocabulary posters for Computer Science, as well as using it for their own projects in other classes!  

I would love to hear if you like FotoJet -- and how you are going to use it in your classroom!





Friday, April 24, 2015

NETA 2015 - Tech Treasures

WOW!  What a great turnout for the NETA 2015 edition of Technology Treasures!  Check out my friend and co-presentor Susan's webpage that highlights this session.

I am linking to the slideshare of the full session below -- but you can find the full presentation as well as a Symbaloo page with links to all of our 2015 Treasures on Susan's blog, "The Digital Scoop".

We both had a great time presenting at NETA and hope you keep in contact with us.  If you have a great treasure -- let us know!  We would LOVE to see it.



Check out the full post of NETA 2015 Technology Treasures
courtesy of "The Digital Scoop"

NETA 2015 - Getting Creative with Google Drive

NETA 2015 was a great success.  The new venue was amazing!  The keynotes were phenomenal -- Adam Bellow and George Couros are inspiring and motivational speakers.  More on them in a future post.

My great friend and colleague, Susan, and I shared "Getting Creative with Google Drive" and really enjoyed sharing our ideas and lessons.  I have attached the slides below.  If you would like to view the templates and lessons, you can check them out here.



Shoot me an email, or tweet me (@jrushing72) if you have any questions or would like more information about our session.  


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

10 Free Kindle Books for Kids

I subscribe to the Smart Apps for Kids list that highlights great educational and FUN apps when they are on sale or FREE!  Every day I get an email telling me about some great apps to use with my students.  If you aren't familiar with this site and list, check it out here!

Today they highlighted 10 Kindle books for kids that are completely Free!  An amazing deal!  I always have kiddos that finish their projects or assignments a little early and need something to do.  I have a couple of older iPads that are reserved for situations like this -- and adding these books to the list of items from which they can choose will be GREAT!


     

      

 

Happy Reading!