By Karen Butler, CSER Project Officer – SA
Pooraka students from Ms Peters, Mr Chig and Mr Andrews class have been working on sharpening their coding skills and they have shown they are keen thinkers, tinkerers and computer scientists in the making. A skill set that will be required by many future jobs.
It has been lovely to work with the students as part of my role at the Computer Science Education Research (CSER) Team and Adelaide University and through my work with the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development in Learning Technologies. I have been talking with students about how computer scientists need to be very precise about creating programmes that work.
To do this we first worked in an “unplugged” way, pretending to be cup stacking robots. We needed to work with a limited set of symbols to make cup stacks, like those shown below. The students were very thoughtful about how they wrote their algorithms or code. We then talked about making our algorithms more efficient by using “functions”.
The following week we used what we had learned about programming with a device called a Makey Makey. We used Visual Programming Blocks called Scratch to make the Makey Makey into an instrument. The students showed how creative they could be recording sounds and creating instruments out of play-dough, alfoil and pencil drawings using alligator clips to complete a circuit with the Makey Makey.
On my third visit we learned how Christmas lights, or festival lights are programmed to flash in patterns. Once we had learned about these functions called “loops” we used a block programme called “makecode” with some BBC micro:bits. After the basics, we were ready to make a prototype of a fitness tracker. Students programmed the micro:bit to count their steps and then tested these fitness trackers by attaching them to their feet or wrist to see where they had the most accurate reading. We learned that an “accelerometer” is the part inside a fitness tracker that helps sense movement.