The 6th graders ended the week with a lesson on problem solving.  The aim of the lesson was to have students experience computing (and computers) as tools for solving problems.  In the younger grades, students are encouraged to use computers as a tool for creative expression.  This modality enables the students to freely express themselves, and in the process they learn a variety of computing and programming techniques.  

In the 6th grade, students will be provided specific problems (with detailed goals) to solve using computers. Besides designing programming solutions, students will also learn more about how computers work.  Computing is not as frustrating as many students believe it is, however, it does require clear concise language in order to craft the appropriate sequence of commands which will yield the desired result.

This past Friday (and continuing through this week), students will be working on writing the correct computer code to solve the problem--- "What's my number?".

Below is an outline of the sequence of steps that the program needs to contain:

Step 1: The computer will generate a random number between 1 and 100
Step 2: The player (person) will make a guess between 1 and 100.
Step 3: The computer will compare the user input to the computer generated number
            (a) If the numbers don't match, provide a hint and have the person guess again
            (b) If the numbers do match, the game ends (or you can play again, if the user wants to).

Part of the learning process is coming up with the logic  (Conditional Statements) (the comparison statements) to determine if the Player has guessed the correct number.  The second part of the learning, is to determine the logic (Control Statements) which will enable the user to keep entering guesses (if needed).

Below is the skeleton code for the project:

The students found the lesson very rewarding --- "I usually do it easy, "peasy" (or ask someone else).  But this was fun and I had to think about it!".  Thank you John!
Many of the 6th graders have used Scratch before, however, Scratch 2.0 is a whole new "ball game".  While it has ALL of the same functionality of Scratch 1.4,  the developers added a wide assortment of new features enabling programmers to benefit from a more robust programming language.  For the 6th graders this means learning new vocabulary as well as navigating a new user-interface.  Please encourage your child to check out the new features.  They will be happy that  they did!

Meet Scratch 2.0
Here are some of the exciting new features:

Project Editor
  • Click Create to make a new project.
  • Your project will automatically save as you work on it (if you're logged in).
  • When you create a project, you are the only one who can see it. After you share it, anyone can see and remix it.
  • The new paint editor includes vector graphics so that images can scale to different sizes without getting jagged.
  • Your Backpack lets you copy and move sprites, costumes, backdrops, and scripts from any project to another.
         If you're logged in, you can open your Backpack inside any project (it's at the bottom of the screen)
  • You can use the webcam on your computer to interact with projects by moving your hands or body.
  • You can now make your own programming blocks.
  • Use clone blocks in your scripts to make copies of sprites.
  • Store numbers in cloud variables to create surveys and other projects.
  • Find out more about the new Scratch blocks.
  • You can see and manage all your projects in My Stuff .

Community Features
  • On the home page, you can see what others have shared recently and scroll to see many more projects.
  • When viewing a project, click  to see how it works and experiment with the code.
  • Inside any project, click  to save your own version and make changes. After you share it, the project page 
         will highlight the original creators and links to their projects.
  • Discover interesting projects by clicking on the Related Projects bar at the bottom of any project page.
  • Click your username or icon to go to your Profile page, where you can feature one of your projects and 
         tell others what you're working on.
  • People can post comments on your Profile page and  your Scratch account to see updates.
  • Galleries are now called Studios, and can be curated by you and others you invite.
  • The Search features lets you find and preview projects more easily.

Planned for Summer 2013 (still in the works)
  • Download an off-line version of the Scratch project editor to use without an Internet connection
  • Connect to external devices with new Scratch extensions (including LEGO WeDo and the ScratchBoard)

For the students first project in Scratch they were given the challenge of creating a "Dance Party".  This project enabled them to explore Scratch 2.0 (which has many new features).   There were no specific requirements for this introductory exercise, so each child was free to take the program as far as they wanted.  Some students created a "Party" with multiple sprites and a variety of backdrops, while others focused their attention on a single sprite with a collection of dance moves.

Scratch is the ideal introductory programming language for the middle school students.  Without the constraints of mastering syntax, students are free to focus their attention on learning to think creatively, work collaboratively and reason systematically.

With future projects, students will learn more advanced computing concepts (such as conditionals and loops).  All of the students' projects will be shared and readily viewed through a Scratch studio.  

Students began exploring Scratch.  We spent some time in class discussing Scratch and trying to determine what makes it special. To this end, each student wrote up a definition for Scratch. We then pulled-out the salient ideas and created the wordle on the left.  

The students impression of Scratch was very close to what the developers had in mind.  According to the website - "you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations - and share your creations with other in the online community."

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.  Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge
For the first time this year, the middle school students at the Lab School, will be using Google Drive.  As an introductory exercise, the students created a shared Google Presentation.  The students will continue to use Google (for collaboration) through out the rotation.