Collaboration is an important skill for 21st century learning. It is also a very large component of the 6th grade computer science curriculum. Collaboration can be experienced in a variety of situations,and thanks to the inspiration of Game Designer, Jane McGonigal, the sixth graders had the opportunity to experience to work together through the "game" Massive Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling. According to Ms. McGonigal, games create emotions that bring people together in large groups to tackle problems. "It is about standing up and grabbing as many hands as you can and wrestling together with a really hard challenge."
The 6th graders took the challenge in stride and had a great time attempting this unique version of "thumb wrestling". The skills that they practiced while engaged in MMTW will be used over and over again through out the rotation. Next time you find yourself with a couple of extra thumbs, I recommend giving this "game" a try.
The end of the 6th grade first rotation is quickly approaching. I must say that the past 12 weeks have been the fastest on record. Hard to imagine, but I will actually miss my students!
Over the course of the rotation, we have explored a lot of computer concepts together. Their final "task/challenge" is to combine all of the pieces into one "Mangnum Opus". The basic premise of the culminating program is to create a game that will help students practice their math facts (addition & multiplication). The students had the freedom to decide what format they wanted to engage the user, thus letting their creativity have free range.
The variety of projects speak for themselves. The students learned a wide assortment of computing concepts and computational practices over during the rotation. They have successfully begun the process of identifying themselves as computer scientists. They are now ready to begin exploring more advanced concepts. I hope they avail themselves of the opportunity and continue to study computer science. They now have a strong foundation for their future programming experiences in high school.
Below is a few sample programs from the final project. Group A & Group B studios contain a link to all of the projects. I strong recommend that you take some time to not only try out the programs but to peak "under the hood"
Today the 6th graders spent time reviewing the benefits of pair programming. While initially hesitant about working with a partner (many of the students wanted the freedom and flexibility to write their own computer program), the 6th graders finally experienced the rewards of working closely with a classmate.
Students spent the first 10-15 minutes of class reflecting on their individual (and their partner's) Pair Programming practices. Some of the students rated themselves quite high, while others recognized their failings and recorded it appropriately. After taking the time to reflect and review the roles, the students were eager to correct their mistakes and tackled the task with renewed commitment.
The Girls Creating Games Guide to Pair Programming from Youth and Technology defines Pair Programming as follows: "Pair Programming is the most widely tested, if not the only, collaborative learning structure where two users work together on a single computer in a way that gives both a critical role in completing their IT project. In pair programming, one partner serves as the “Driver” while operating the keyboard and the mouse to execute operations. The other partner acts as the “Navigator.” In a classic code-writing situation, there are two primary roles of the Navigator: one is to actively review the code-writing and catch errors as they happen in order to prevent glitches or bugs in the software, and the other is to collaborate with the Driver to generate solutions to programming tasks or problems. We added a third primary role to the job of Navigator – that of managing all the print-based materials, including both instructional aides and project materials."
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.