Many individuals find the computer science classroom to be a confusing place.  Majority of students assume that the main objective of the class is to learn programming (and in my classroom, that would be to learn Scratch),  while actually the predominant 21st century skills that I am teaching my students are;  creative problem solving, computational thinking and collaboration.

This week in the fifth grade classroom we started the process by learning about algorithms.  Students experienced firsthand the importance of clear, precise instructions and a common vocabulary.  The goal (objective) was for the students to "program" (write a set of instructions) for their robot (a fellow student) to move a stack of cups from a starting position to a final configuration using ONLY six symbols. Almost immediately the students realized that they needed to agree on what the symbols meant based on the final layout of the cups.  For example, which symbols or set of symbols, would get the cups to be face up .  We agreed that the turn 90 degrees would accomplish that task.  The other thing that we agreed on, was that (at least for now) every time they need another cup, they would just say pick up cup, and it would bring the "robot" back to the stack.  

The students worked in groups of three or four. Each student had to assume a specific role to complete the activity.  Even though they would all have a turn at each of the roles, for some of the groups,  assigning the initial roles caused some tension. Thankfully after some assistance, all of the groups managed to get at least one "program" completed.  I enjoyed watching them work through the problems, I overhead some insightful conversations and found that they had discovered that collaboration was key.  I look forward to seeing them tackle more challenging problems in the future!
In honor of CSEdWeek, the Computer Science Teacher's Association's  (CSTA) Equity Committee will be hosting its annual poster competition "We Are the Faces of Computing".  This contest invites students of any age to design a poster that highlights the diverse and creative ways that students do computer science together.  Winners of the Elementary School, Middle School, and High School competitions will receive either three Finch robots or a Lego Mindstorms robot for their classrooms and have their posters published on the CSTA website.  

The fifth grade students are participating in this international competition.  Working in groups of four, students spent this week brainstorming and collecting images for their poster.  In addition to the poster containing an photograph of the group, the poster also should include creative images that reflect their lives, interests, and experiences with computing.  The digital medium for the poster has been left to each individual group to decide.

While watching them work over the past week, I have been very impressed with their creative approach to the project.  They have been experimenting with Photo Booth, Comic Life, Microsoft Word, Pages and Scratch.  I can't wait to see their finished posters.  
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:

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! 
We continued our celebration of International Dot Day with a reading of the book "The Dot". For anyone who has been afraid to express themselves - from a child in art class to an adult whose fear has shut down a long-held dream, Peter Reynold's book "The Dot" is there to remind us ALL to "Make your mark, and see where it takes you."

Students will be creating their own dots (in Scratch) to be included in the World Museums Dot Day Project.

Students were asked to share Scratch with their parents.


After reading and discussing the book, students viewed 
The World Museums Dot Project 2012 (below)
Ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, 
whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. 
The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking.
We began the school year exploring the idea of creativity.  Then each student designed a "word cloud" using wordle.