Computational thinking - we're already doing it

A big challenge with any new information is figuring out what it means, and cutting through the jargon. If you've tried to buy a new TV recently, change your electricity provider or even tackled the juice and smoothie menu in your friendly organic neighbourhood cafe you'll know how it feels to be bombarded with new terms, acronyms and technical language.

There's always a place for precise language which explains a concept clearly. But sometimes using a new term can cover up the fact that you're already familiar with a concept, just by a different name.

The NSW K-6 Science and Technology Curriculum is no different. New South Wales teachers will be teaching 'digital technologies' as part of the Science and Technology subject in 2019. It's an exciting time for teachers, parents and students, who all recognize that it's important for education to keep up with the world around us and future workplace needs. Exciting ... and ... more than a little daunting.

In 2018 we'll be explaining key terms, giving real-life examples of these terms in action, and suggesting where you can go for ideas and inspiration.

Computational Thinking 

Teachers are already familiar with design thinking and scientific thinking. A new concept is 'computational thinking'. This is a method of problem-solving used by humans and computers. It involves using strategies to organise data logically, break down problems into parts, interpret patterns and design and implement sets of instructions to solve problems.

Computational Thinking in Practice

What does this look like in a classroom? Imagine you're planning an imaginary class excursion to the zoo with your students. Let's use computational thinking to plan it out.

What data do you have and how can you organize it? The number of students, venue, date of travel and budget? - that's abstraction, or process of organizing data to focus on the key information without getting bogged in detail. (Luckily in this classroom activity it means you can ignore completing a risk assessment!)

Next, let's break the process into parts: how will you get there? What will you do when you arrive? How will you get back? This is 'decomposition' - breaking things into small enough parts to start designing solutions for. You may do it many times - if you need a bus and a train to get to the zoo, you'd break travel into two further sections: bus travel and train travel. 

Pattern recognition is simply spotting parts of your problem that are similar to problems you've solved before - remember when you went to the aquarium last year? Maybe the travel arrangements were similar to planning a trip to the zoo. Let's see what we did last time and what we can use again.

Lastly, it's time to set out your instructions clearly by creating a well crafted set of instructions: an algorithm. Bring together all of the information and data you've gathered above into a clear set of instructions to make that trip to the zoo amazing! It might look like:

  • pack a bag with a drink bottle, a hat, and a raincoat
  • arrive at school at 8:00 am
  • check that all students and teachers have arrived
  • board the bus heading North
  • exit the bus at the West Street train station
  • board the train to the Zoo
  • (I think by now you know where this is heading.)

Here's an example of computational thinking in action. No computers, no coding, but a key concept in the new Science and Technologies syllabus that is engaging to discuss with students. Try jumbling up the instructions - what happens? Do you get to the zoo? Where are you going on your next excursion?


Eight Questions You Can Answer with a Micro:bit

Eight Questions You Can Answer with a Micro:bit

We love Micro:bits at Code Rangers. They're easy to code, they're cheap, and they don't need to be connected to a computer. When we use them in a classroom there is lots of collaboration, discussion and many 'a-ha' moments 💡.

A Ten minute how-to for app building with Thunkable

A Ten minute how-to for app building with Thunkable

At Code Rangers we're fascinated with language recognition and translation at the moment, with many of our students exploring chatbots and voice-activated personal assistants in class. 

We wanted to share a simple app project using Thunkable. When we sat down to write a step by step guide we realized it was SO simple a video worked even better. Follow along and in ten minutes you can design and code a handy Android app to translate phrases between languages.  

Let's do this! Coding is coming to NSW schools in 2019

Let's do this! Coding is coming to NSW schools in 2019

The NSW Education Standards Authority announced in December that coding will be part of our primary school children's curriculum from 2019.

Teachers have 2018 to learn, plan and get familiar with the new concepts in the curriculum. Coding professional development will be the new black! Coding falls under the digital technologies learning area, which is part of a new Science and Technologies Syllabus for all students in years K to 6. 

The Code Rangers Christmas Doing List (no shopping required)

The Code Rangers Christmas Doing List (no shopping required)

Here comes Christmas, and with it the rush to find the perfect gift. At the same time for those in the Southern Hemisphere the long summer break from school awaits, with days and weeks of relaxation and also inevitably calls of 'I'm bored'. Here's my Christmas gift to you: a (mostly free) list of technology related activities for your kids to do over summer. They'll be learning, and creating. They'll be innovating. They'll feel in charge. These are all of the skills we want for our kids to thrive in the digital age.

You really can get coding in your classroom tomorrow

You really can get coding in your classroom tomorrow

The one question we’ve been asked more than any other by teachers new to coding is 'where do I start?' And it's a fair question. A quick google of coding in the classroom, or how to teach kids to code throws up so many choices: hardware, software, apps, websites, subscriptions and signups. 

We can help you cut through that, right now, with an actionable plan to teach coding in your classroom tomorrow.

Why I am so excited about going to Silicon Valley (hint: it’s not about the technology)

I’m visiting Silicon Valley for the first time next week, as chaperone for a team of girls called ‘Reading Republic’. They’ve been students at Code Rangers for a while, and show curiosity, drive, and perseverance in spades, and their hard work has led them to take part in the Global Technovation Challenge. Along the way they’ve been a part of the Tech Girls are Superheroes Competition, and been introduced to amazing mentors, and competition’s amazing founder Jewella, aka Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen.

We’ve been given an agenda for the week ahead with visits to tech companies and opportunities to practice pitching in front of some of the best. But that’s not what has me excited. The thing that’s really making me count down the days is that I’m going to meet the future. By that I don’t mean driverless cars (don’t get me wrong, that’s going to be a great field trip.) I’m going to meet eighteen other teams of girls who, just like the Reading Republic girls love making stuff. They love collaborating. They’ve spent over a year of their short lives finding solutions to problems in their local communities, problems aligned to the United Nations sustainable development goals. And they’re all going to be in one place.

I’ve looked on the map at where they’re coming from, and it’s global - Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and North America. They’ve identified problems that matter to them - from female genital mutilation, to pre- and postnatal care, recycling and improving literacy. They’ve identified solutions, and now they’re coming together to refine those solutions, and meet experts who can help get these solutions off the ground. They’re going to learn about what life is like outside of their own bubbles and daily lives, and get a first hand glimpse at this global community we know we’re all a part of, but often struggle to really get a hold of.

Think about what that will look like. And sound like!  While it’s been a year of hard work for the girls to get this far, I really think next week’s summit is just the start for them. They’re going to come back from Technovation with a broader perspective of the world, and with encouragement and support to keep working on their projects.

The problems they’re working to solve are so varied, but Technovation also looks to solve one further problem - why do so many girls with spark and passion and smarts decide not to pursue science or technology studies at university (let alone choose these professions)?  Once all these girls return to their homes they’re going to be able to tell stories of the amazing work being done globally with tech to improve our communities. They’re going to shine as examples of the opportunities to excel in STEM, and they’ll be rockstars in their local communities, where other girls can see what they’ve done, and set out on their own journey of problem solving, creating and collaborating.

Now THAT’s what has me super excited. (I’m sure that Google HQ with it slides and dinosaur fossils is going to be really cool too.)