Geek Squad and Coding Club

Starting in January I will be holding two after school clubs. The first will be a continuation of my geek squad. Many of this year’s geeks are new and could do with another round of geek squad. My second club will be a coding club. I found that my more experienced geeks were getting a bit bored with the geek squad and were ready to move to something more challenging.  

I think that with both the geek squad and the coding club I am going to let the kids be a bit more independent. In the geek squad we were able to get a free ride back to Sunrise Care Home because the bus was so late, so we will be heading back to Sunrise to show the residents more technology. Then I would like to do a few more parent sessions with the geeks showing parents both what they know and helping the parent’s with their problems. The integrationist and I are working on anther “Discover Egham’s iPads” event and of course the geeks will help out with that. 

In coding club I am going to let the kids try coding in several ways. I am going to get a couple of the Lego Mindstorms back from the high school. I am also going to get them involved with Code Academy. This will allow them to work through coding problems on their own.  

I already have 16 geeks and 11 coders signed up so I am looking forward to seeing what comes from next year’s clubs.  I will also continue to think of ways to incorporate coding into our curriculum in an authentic way.  

Coding with Legos

Through one of my many sources I found an article about how a teacher uses legos to code without a computer. Here is her idea. So, I decided to give it a try with my Coding club.  

I gave them all a lego base and 6 legos. Their directions were to create a starting position and draw that on a piece of paper.

The start position.

Then, think of and ending position where the legos were stacked in some way.

The end position.

Once they had those two things they were to then think of a code that a “robot” could follow to get the bricks moved. We brainstormed some basic language to use in our code. Then they got started.  

Their code.


Some of them decided that they wanted language that was not on our list so they created their own. They worked for 35 min before one group finished. During this time they were all engaged and having fun testing code and seeing if it worked. 

The group that finished first, did so because they created a very simple code sequence. They tested it with a “robot” ie, another student, while the other groups watched. I could see that some of the other groups were struggling with the fact that they weren’t finished, but I reminded them that the more complicated the “code” the longer it would take.

Hard at work on their code.


They continued to work for a bit longer and then one of the parents arrived a bit early. I asked him if he would like to be a robot and he said “Sure!”.  So, he came in and ran the code for the first group. When he ran the code, the group realized that there was a mistake and were quickly able to solve it.  

Mr. Conley being a robot!


I love this activity and I am so glad I found it as I plan on working it into the classrooms in some way!

Geek Squad and Coding Club Blog

In January I will begin my third session of Geek Squad and first session of Coding Club. I am thinking that I might also start a blog for these two groups. This would give us a place to share cool, geeky things.  It will also be a good place to share our accomplishments within the club.  I was thinking that we could have a weekly tip to help other students.  

Each week I could have a different student who is responsible for the post.  Plus any students who have something that they would like share. This could also give the Geeks and Coders a chance to begin to make resources for other students to use. 


I am also thinking that I might get one of my “Super Geeks” to help me with the management and execution of the blog.

Keep an eye on this blog for an update on how this goes! 

Sphero

I had another awesomely cool Geek Squad lesson today.  First I had my “geeks” feed back on the four coding apps that I had asked them to test. They had looked at Daisy Dinosaur, Hopscotch, Cargo Bot and Cody Academy.  I asked them to test it and let me know what they thought about it.  I also asked them to tell me what grades they thought the apps could be used in.

After they gave a bit of feedback about what they thought of the apps, with one student showing how he programmed hopscotch to write something, we discussed the apps.  I was very impressed by their impressions and thoughts on who the apps would be good for.  These are 9-11 year olds.  They gave me wonderful and thoughtful reasons for why the apps should be used in specific grades or in specific ways.  They listened to each other and countered each others points with ease.

I then brought out my new Sphero ball! http://www.gosphero.com/. I had let two of the Geeks come in during lunch to make up a lesson they had missed because they were on a field trip. They immediately got everyone excited about the ball telling them a few of the things that they discovered when they were playing with it. I sat back and watched as I only have one ball and one iPad running it.
They were fascinated and excited about trying to get it to work.  They got the ramps out and were trying to figure out how to get it over the ramps. They were taking turns holding it and making it do it’s crazy jump around thing.  While that was happening other students were coding on hopscotch, one student helping with my Knowledge Bank resource. One student was googling websites that sell the Sphero balls, he was trying to find the cheapest one.  He even created a shared google doc to give it to the other geeks.  He then went on to a poster making website and created the poster below!

They were all so very excited it was great to see.  They weren’t even worried about the fact that there were 11 geeks and one Sphero.  They kept asking where I got it and saying “I’m gonna ask for one for Christmas.”  I did tell them that when they went home and demanded their parents buy them one, they were to immediately follow that by saying, “Ms. Hart said she’s sorry.”

They were buzzing so much when they left I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t get a lot of parents emailing me for more information!  I have even had two send me messages on Edmodo and say that they had just about talked their parents into buying them one!

Coding

In the next few weeks I will be beginning an after school a club.  My I aim is to have a group of students who can learn a bit extra about some programs, apps, and equipment.  I want to be able to develop a culture where teachers can feel comfortable asking students for help.  At the same time have a group of well trained students, ready to answer emergencies when needed.

While we will be looking at improving our understanding of some specific apps and programs.  I want to expose them to some basic coding.  I liked how Will.I.Am put it in the code.org video that it is 2013 and we depend on technology, but none of us know how to read and write in code.  
While there are many different coding languages knowing one, like with spoken languages, makes it easier to learn others. Coding also helps students understand how they can take something back to the most basic instruction, in order to code effectively you must have a detailed plan in mind.  Which means that they will need to think their idea through from beginning to end, including all of the specific details in the middle. This is exactly what we ask them to do when they are writing.
We all know that boys find the language side of education “harder” coding could be an alternative way to get them interested and learning about the writing process. It will also give those student’s who already plan effectively another avenue to use these skills.
I have been trying to think of a good way to use coding in the class room and while writing this post I have given myself an idea.  Not only does using coding as a writing activity bring coding into the classroom, but is an effective way to integrate technology into the language curriculum. For the younger students it can be as simple as introducing them to the instructional writing genre.  For the older students the whole writing process can be worked into a coding lesson from plan-to-draft-to-write-to-edit-to-publish.

Photo Credit: http://www.conceptcupboard.com/resource-centre/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/coding.jpg