Category Archives: Online Learning

Can a Kindergartner Complete “The Hour of Code”?

Can a Kindergartner Complete “The Hour of Code”?

kindergartner_light_botLongtime readers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of the Hour of Code, an initiative with the goal of getting every student to program a computer for at least one hour during the school year. In my last day as a teacher in the public schools, my math department colleagues and I completed it with our students and were impressed how much our high school students could pick up in one class period.

I did wonder, however, if it could work with younger students, as the suggested age ranges for some of the activities imply. I’m a father of three young girls (the youngest having arrived earlier this month), and each of the last couple of years, I’ve been sizing up the oldest to see if she might be ready to jump into the Hour of Code. This year, as a kindergartner, it seemed like it was time to go for it. To set the stage, Rachel is a bright girl, but not a prodigy, just now mastering learning letters and numbers and starting to read. We’ve given her some exposure to technology via tablets (iPad and Kindle Fire) at home, and PCs at the community library and her school, but it’s not something she does not a daily basis, more like one or twice a week. I share this just to point out that she didn’t go into the Hour of Code activity with an special preparation for the activities that any other well adjusted kindergartner wouldn’t have.

The Hour of Code list of activities makes it easy to select by a project by grade level. I went with “pre-reader,” since Rachel is just learning to read. She tried a couple of different activities, the Light Bot, and Kodable. How did it go? Well, the short answer is, she loved it. I was impressed how quickly she adapted to the logic puzzles presented, and within probably 5-10 minutes, she was thinking through strategies for “debugging” her code and making it more efficient.

The more nuanced answer is that after clearing the first wave of 8 levels on the Light Bot, which required no assistance from me, things got more challenging for her. That’s when function calls and eventually recursion come in with Light Bot, and conceptually, that turned out to be a bit too much for her, but it didn’t discourage her at all. We also tried Kodable, and she enjoyed it just as much. I did not yet get into the “blocks” type of coding languages offered for young kids, which appear to be more like a proper coding language (think Scratch), offering “if-then” syntax and such, but we may give that a try on an upcoming weekend.

Bottom line, if you are a teacher (or parent) of young elementary children, I’d encourage you to head over to the Hour of Code website and sign up. Your students absolutely can do this, and you will find that you don’t need to be an sort of computer science expert to help them. Whether you have access to PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, iPads, or Android tablets, they have an activity that can work for you.

STEM Behind Sports

STEM Behind Sports

Continuing their popular “STEM Behind…” series of classroom activities that feature interesting applications of mathematics and science with Texas Instruments technologies, TI has launched a new curriculum module, STEM Behind Sports. Previous modules in the series like STEM behind Hollywood feature the TI-Nspire CX, but STEM Behind Sports features the TI-84 Plus CE (review). Like… Continue Reading

Why STEM Studies are the Future of Engineering

Quality of life has significantly improved thanks to tools developed by leaders in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These high-performing minds combine technical skill with innovative ideas to find improvements and alternative solutions to some of the world’s largest problems. Engineering, in particular, is one STEM field that can take credit for… Continue Reading

University of Washington Machine Learning Classification Review

I’ve spent the last couple of months working through course three in the University of Washington’s Machine Learning Specialization on Coursera. Course two was regression (review); the topic of the third course is classification. As has been the case with previous courses, this specialization continues to be taught by Carlos Guestrin and Emily Fox. For… Continue Reading

Coursera Review–Machine Learning: Regression

Coursera Review–Machine Learning: Regression

I’ve recently completed the second course in the University of Washington Machine Learning Specialization on Coursera, “Machine Learning: Regression.” This comes on the heels of completing course 1, Machine Learning Foundations: A Case Study Approach. This course debuted right at the end of November and wrapped up 6 weeks later (my impression is that these… Continue Reading

NASA and Texas Instruments Team Up for STEM Education

NASA and Texas Instruments Team Up for STEM Education

  Today, Texas Instruments announced a new partnership with NASA for STEM education that they are calling mISSion imaginaTIon. The new initiative launched with an online quiz about manned space missions, and there will soon be TI-Nspire activities with mISSion imaginaTIon. A year long STEM design challenge encourages students to work on four space-related challenges, and the… Continue Reading

Teaching Graph Theory With Twitter

In a recent post, I displayed the social network graph that I created using the Twitter API and Plotly. There are a number of interesting applications here. Given my history with education, one that I think that shouldn’t be overlooked is as an interesting way to teach graph theory for an innovative teacher and school.… Continue Reading

#EdTechChat Social Network Graph

#EdTechChat Social Network Graph

Using the Twitter API and Plotly with Python, I created a visualization of a recent #EdTechChat on Twitter, held on December 14. If you aren’t familiar with graph theory, the dots in this visualization are referred to as nodes or vertices. They represent the Twitter users that participated in the chat. The line segments connecting… Continue Reading

Coursera Review: Social and Economic Networks

Because I just couldn’t get enough of the new Machine Learning Specialization from the University of Washington, I decided to fill fill my schedule to the brim with another Coursera class, Social and Economic Networks: Models and Analysis, from the University of Stanford. I took a graph theory course at the University of Illinois while… Continue Reading

Hour of Code 2015

We are just a couple of weeks away from the 2015 Hour of Code.  Last year, I did the Hour of Code with all of my students on my last day as a teacher after 13 years in the classroom, and they loved it. If you are a math, science, or computer teacher, or are a… Continue Reading