Monday, December 8, 2014

What I learned about coding from 5th graders

So today I was mentoring / volunteering for Kolter's Hour of Code ( and I got to observe 3 different 5th grade classes come through to try to program a visual game like Angry Birds or Lightbot.

Just for context, both of these games involved sequencing directional puzzle pieces to perform a task. For Angry birds, you would move the bird towards the pig, and for Lightbot, you'd move the robot along a grid lighting blue squares.

Not surprising nobody read the directions or prompts before diving right in. The part that I found interesting, was that very few would try to solve the problem in small steps.

Nearly every pair (they were pair programming.... woot!) whether they read the prompt or not, tried to solve the entire puzzle before hitting play. It of course wouldn't work. Then they'd throw nearly the whole thing away and create another complete solution, which also wouldn't work.

One of the things that I coached them on was to test often.... put down one or two commands and see where you are on the sequence. Basically to get faster feedback.

So I'm curious as to where in life do we learn that we have to solve the whole puzzle at once?


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  2. >So I'm curious as to where in life do we learn that we have to solve the whole puzzle at once?
    In school, you don't turn in an assignment, quiz, or test one question at a time and get results one question at a time (unless the test is only one question). You turn in the complete assignment, quiz, or test, wait a while, and finally get results.
    You don't typically go to the store, find an item, wait in line, buy it, go home, then turn around and go back to the store for the next item.
    I speculate that batching work to gain efficiency is so common place it can become habit, and we stop evaluating if there is even efficiency to gain.

    I'm curious, how many of them were having a lot of fun compared to just getting through the activity?

    1. Nearly all of them are having a blast. There are many cheers of accomplishment throughout the room. I noticed maybe a handful of students (I've seen 8 classes of 25 by now) in the pair who are not participating, but overall, it has been a very fun and engaging experience