I saw this infographic last night on my twitter feed and I believe it speaks volumes about the importance of teaching computer science to students starting in the elementary grades (or lower school).  I realize that many people continue to be skeptical about the need for EVERYONE to learn to "code".  However, while we may use the word "code" to describe the process of writing computer programs, it is much more than that.  "Coding" aka computer science is about creative problem solving, critical thinking and innovation.  Very important skills for ALL of our students that will prepare them for life in the 21st century and beyond.  So next time your child wants to play a video game, encourage them to "code" instead!
Thanks to Kodable for the infographic!

Please include attribution to Kodable with this graphic.

5 Reasons to Teach Kids to Code

The fifth graders continued their exploration of what constitutes a computer.  Working in groups of three or four Mrs. Mitzenmacher's class (10-22-2013) and Mrs. Mannering's class (10-23-2013) created a list (from items in the computer class room) that either - Were Computers, Might be Computers, or Definitely NOT Computers.  The students made some pretty insightful observations.

Mr. Kass' class spent time today thinking about the characteristics of a computer. The students wrote their observations on the board.  Together we examined the traits, and determined that the following items are what makes an object a computer:
  • Contains a chip/microprocessor
  • Has memory
  • Has a source of power
  • Follow commands
  • Processes Data

For the past four weeks the 5th graders worked diligently on their Dots for World Dot Day.  I was finally able to combine all of their dots (over 125) into one project.  The finished program is amazing.  I encourage you to take a look.  

Some of the students have already begun exploring Scratch on their own.  We will revisit Scratch through out the year.  They will learn some pretty amazing things.  I can't wait to share them with you. Make sure to check back often!

The students in Mrs. Mitzenmacher's class have been working on the divisibility rules over the last couple of weeks.  To help them share their understanding of the concepts, the students (working in pairs) were given the opportunity to create a Scratch program demonstrating the appropriate rules.  

Each team's program needed the following components:
  1. The computer would generate a random number (between 1 - 100)
  2. The code would include a series of IF or IF-ELSE statements.
  3. The program needs to display the appropriate answer (i.e.. Divisible or Not Divisible)

To introduce the concept (of IF-THEN statements), I read the short-story to the students , Computational Fairy Tales - Learning IF-THEN-ELSE the hard way.
Ann had learned the value of IF-ELSE statements at a very early age. When she was only three years old, she was given VERY strict instructions from the castle's head chef NOT to randomly eat things in the kitchen. Specifically, she was told:

IF the food is on the 'finished' table
     You can eat it.
      Do not eat it.

Of course, as any three year old is bound to do, Ann ignored these instructions. She would sneak into the kitchen and eat pieces of fruit off of the chef's prep table. Each time that the chef caught her, he would give her a lecture about obeying the IF statement. His lectures would last a full ten minutes and include at least one remark about "kids these days". Ann enjoyed listening to him describe the branching logic of the IF statement almost as much as she enjoyed sneaking fruit. In fact, some days she even made sure that she was caught so that she could listen to his rants. ........

Finished Project:

What exactly is a computer?  Where can we find computers? These were some of the questions that the students explored after viewing the movie from Code.org, For many the conversation was pretty obvious, but for others, the line between a computer and other "machines" was a bit blurry.  In today's world it is getting harder and harder to make the distinction.  It seems that almost everything MIGHT qualify as a computer.

So what exactly is a computer? A computer is a machine that carries out instructions given to it by a human.  Without instructions, computer wouldn't be able to do anything.  So what can computers do that humans can't?
  • They can work faster than humans,
  • Are more accurate than humans,
  • Can store huge amounts of information that they never "forget"

So in addition to the traditional computer (laptop, desktop, iPad, etc), many of the devices in our homes have an embedded computer (a small silicon chip that carries out stored instructions).  The modern home has over 100 of these computers, built into devices like a toaster, stereo, washing machine, etc.  A modern car may have another 100 or more embedded computers.

Mrs. Bloom's Class

Where are the computers?

This week the 5th graders spent time thinking about what computers are and how they fit into their lives.  To kick off the conversation the students watched a short video clip produced by the non-profit foundation,Code.org. They believe that EVERY student in EVERY school should learn computer science. 
After watching the film the 5th graders shared their impressions of the film and of computer science.  
  • "The closest you can get to having a super power is to be a programmer"
  • "Programming opens doors"
  • "You can open your mind, do whatever you can think and imagine, and you can do this through computer programming"
  • "Programming can help you with math and science"
Wow, I don't know about you, but I think I want to learn to "code"!

The fifth graders first experience with Scratch was a huge success!  After spending about three weeks learning the ins and outs of the Scratch Paint Editor (and the new Scratch 2.0 website) the students have finally finished their dots.  It is a wonder to behold.  With over 100 students, I can say with almost 100% certainty that no two dots look a lot.  But don't take my word for it.  You can view the dots at the Scratch Studio.  By Monday, I will have uploaded all of the dots into the program.  But for now, here is a sneak preview.  Enjoy!