This week, Memorial 4th graders will finish up their second lesson on computer science and we still haven’t touched an iPad.
What?! How can that be? Isn’t computer science all about computers?
Well, yes. And no.
While computer science is about using the power of computers to solve problems, it’s the computational thinking that harnesses that power and so much more. The skills we are learning, and will continue to learn, are applicable to almost everything in life. We are learning to decompose problems into smaller, more manageable problems, including understanding the need to distinguish between actions that help us accomplish a task and those that make us less successful or efficient. We’ve discovered that there are times when the sequencing of steps in a task are essential to a good outcome and times when we have discretion. For example, if we don’t follow the steps in folding our paper airplanes in the correct order, our results may not look or act like a paper airplane. On the other hand, we know we need to brush our teeth and hair before we leave for school, but whether it is your hair or your teeth that you brush first is unlikely to impact the outcome “leave for school.”
As we move on, we will decompose more complex problems, look for and use repeating patterns (loops), pull out specific differences in order to create processes that work for multiple problems (functions), and creating increasingly advanced algorithms.
Why do we introduce each of these concepts “unplugged” rather than through a website or other online platform? Because all of these skills have applications that go beyond coding and we are looking to develop and generalize these in everything students do in life, including school. We want students to break down any problem that they encounter, whether it’s a math problem, planning out a project, creating a narrative, or resolving conflict with peers, into manageable parts that they can address in sequence to achieve the desired result. Recognizing patterns and the ability to apply the same concept across multiple situations are essential life skills.
Next week, we will start to apply the skills we’ve learned over the past two weeks to coding. While we make zombies walk through mazes, help bees make honey, and draw colorful pictures, we will also look at how the coding we are doing is mirrored in the world around us.
Stay tuned as we work to bring computer science to life!