811Q Code N Go

Programming Colby, the robot mouse.

Coding Books 3

Code.org has had a tremendous impact on the global interest in computer science education, and in particular, on the development of the computer science initiatives in the NYCDOE.

Although their curriculum is no longer published in book form (download instead), up until 2018 they were shipping bound books.

Their Computer Science Fundamentals book checks in at just over 300 pages of dense text and relatively mediocre black and white illustrations (the online downloadable version is full color).

It is also filled with offline (unplugged) activities whose goal is to familiarize students with coding concepts (e.g., conditionals, repeat looks, variables) without being on the computer. There are also sections on digital citizenship.

All in all, it is a mixed bag. I like the pages that show how to do graph paper programming, which is an effective way to introduce students to algorithms

. .

I use their Graph Paper Programming in my Adapted Coding Workshops that I offer to teachers.

The content that I had less success with the students was Getting Loopy, which introduces pattern recognition and loops. The students did the worksheet, but did not seem to gain a greater understanding about loops.

pdf version


Coding Books 2

It bills itself as “The Complete Middle School Study Guide” and it does have a load of content.

Everything you need to ace computer science and coding in one big fat notebook is a fat book full of color drawings that covers coding concepts and computer languages.

I used it to teach Scratch. I like how it explains the coordinate plane, because not ever student knows what the numbers in the move blocks mean.

I also learned about the scratch backpack, on area on the bottom of the scratch page that you can use to save scripts to reuse with other sprites (characters) or other projects. Students must have an individual Scratch account to use the backpack feature, fyi.

The book has a unit on universal coding commands, such as loops, conditionals, and variables, that I found confusing and not helpful.


Coding Books I

This is the first post in a series about useful computer coding books that are age-appropriate for middle schoolers, as well as students with disabilities.

DK Publishers Beginners Ste-by-step Coding Course

This book helped me teach students computer science. I found it at the New York Public Library,  browsing through the shelves in the YA section.

What I like is that it covered Scratch, which is what I did with some of the classes. Although there was not enough time/cognitive ability (on my part, anyway) to do python, javascript or html/css, nevertheless it was there for the learning (I actually do know html, and a small amount of css).

Add excellent graphics and simple explanations, and what more could a teacher want to use to teach students?

Dorling Kindersley (DK) graphics are the BEST!



Robot Race

We built the course together. The students programmed their robot mouse racers.

Robot race

Codespark Coder

This student found success in choosing the correct parameters — either up and to the right, up and to the left, or straight up — to make a character jump.

Code Cards to Code Code Mouse

We programmed the robot mouse to run the maze.

Team work

Kodable Progress

After about seven sessions, this is the progress for a group alternate assessment 7/8 graders working on Kodable. The plan is to continue with this program for another 3-4 weeks, then switch to 3D deisgn using Tinkercad and handheld printers.

Scratch Spiral Randomizer!?

This variation to the scratch spiralizer script creates a random spiral.

Instead of putting a whole number in the blue “turn ___  degrees” block on the bottom of the first script,

I added a green Operator block.

In the first oval I added a Sensing block called “timer” and in the second oval I put the number 1. There is a * (multiplication) operation between the numbers.

This is the block I added:

I did not invent this unusual script. I copied it from a scratch discussion board.

Anyway, it TOTALLY randomizes an already awesome animation.

If you understand why it does what it does, please explain it in the comments below.

Scratch Spiralizer with Students

The last period class on Mondays is in many ways my favorite. They are young yet mature. When I want to use a group of students for guinea pigs, they are my go-to’s. We have done chrome music lab, mathigon’s polypad, online robots, code & go mouse robots, scratch jr. (the “unofficial” desktop software version), and now the online version of scratch.

Here is a (speeded-up) sampling of student work on the spiralizer, which is just about the coolest introduction to scratch there is. (click to see video)

Here is the script for spiralizer:

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March 2023