Introducing Coding to a Six Year Old

I’ve wanted to look at Scratch for a while but haven’t really had a need. And without a need it’s hard to justify the time. However, Jennifer and I decided Brady’s present from Santa this year is going to be the new Lego Boost set.  I think he’s ready for it, but the coding aspect of it makes me a little hesitant.

Today I thought I would see if Brady was interested in coding.  I know he’s naturally curious but I’m scared of overwhelming him. So I decided to go at this in very small steps.

The first thing I asked him to do was to draw me a picture using crayons. He decided upon a couple of flowers. Once he was done with the picture I asked if he thought he could recreate it on the computer.

At first we tried the built in editor in Scratch but he didn’t have the dexterity for that so I installed Tuxpaint. This worked perfectly.  I saved the background image and then asked him if there were any animals which liked flowers.  He said that bee’s love flowers. I asked if he was interested in trying to draw a bee.  He was. And did. I saved this bee as a separate image.

I had to spend a couple of minutes getting the image sizes right and adding a transparency to the bee but once that was done I asked him if he could help me write our first program. He decided that he wanted to be able to make the bee fly around the screen. A couple of minutes later we had come up with the following:

Scratch code for Brady's Bee
Scratch code for Brady’s Bee

The end result:

His face lit up when he figured out how to control his bee. (This requires Flash.)

Creating Real Time Data Visualizations

Over the last two years I’ve made a point to experiment with free internet resources with the intent of incorporating some of the more polished examples into my classroom.

I’ve fallen in love with how well Google has managed to integrate its internet application suite together and how this integration allows for ways to interact with my science classes that were heretofore impossible.

One specific application of this has produced more “Oh Wow!”, and literal “A-Ha!” moments than any other.  I don’t have or know a good buzz word for what it is that I’m doing and the explanation is going to sound overly complicated. But in application it’s actually fairly easy.

So here I go with the explanation…

I create Google Forms and then embed them on my classroom website. The forms themselves are being used to capture data from the various experiments that we conduct.  When the students submit the forms with their data the form saves that data inside a Google Sheet. With the Google Sheet I’m able to crunch the numbers however necessary and from that generate a graph or chart. I have the chart displayed on my overhead digital projector. The result being that as a student inputs data they receive real time feedback of what effect that data has on the cumulative total

This might be easier to visualize with an example.

Below I’ve embedded a simple Google Form. The responses are stored in a Google Sheet. That sheet is creating a histogram. That histogram is then embedded underneath the form. The major difference with this example is that the image is not updating in real time (but hopefully the idea is there).


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