Thursday, 22 May 2014

CodeClub for years 3-4 Week Two

So after the success of week One I was fairly confident that this next session would go well.  It did, but there were a few obstacles to overcome first.

Problem one: the projector for the smart board was out of action. I had planned to show few things on the screen. Luckily I discovered this during my regular lunchtime CodeClub so I was able to plan around this in between clubs.

Problem two: I'd planned to get everyone started on LightBot this week. Unfortunately when I setting up the machines in the few minutes before the club started the site was down! Once again, good planning got me out of trouble as I quickly switched to the Angry Birds/ blockly tutorial instead. Phew.

It was interesting to see the difference in ability across the attendees. A couple of them had already down the exercises as part of the hour of code so they whizzed through it. Another two (who claimed not to have done it before) were just as quick.  Age did not seem to be a factor here as the high-flyers were split across YR3 and YR4.

Everyone worked hard and noisily for about 40 minutes then I called a halt and introduced the 'unplugged' session.  Following on from last week's jam sandwich extravaganza I wanted to focus on something that robots and computers are good at - sorting numbers. Borrowing from the Sorting Networks activity I took everyone outside to the playground armed with small whiteboards and markers to where my young apprentice helpers had been marking out the sorting matrix with sports cones and chalk. I explained the steps involved, stressing that really there is just one 'operation' - the comparison of two numbers - that is performed several times to build the algorithm (I was ignoring the multi-threaded aspect for this discussion.

First we worked through it in groups 2 groups of six, with each clubber picking their own number between 1 and 1000. Of course the smarty pants maths geeks all tried to pick 999.99999999...

Then I asked them to run it so that the numbers were sorted in descending order and they quickly worked out how to modify their program.

By the time we'd done this we were all very hot (it was the hottest day of 2014 so far!) so we went back inside to carry on with Angry Birds/Zombies. By that time, LightBot had got its act together so I was able to direct those who'd finished the previous exercises to start on that.

So it was a shame that I couldn't really show my Scratch sorter - this would have been a nice introduction to those who've never seen Scratch before. Hopefully it'll be fixed after half term.

Lessons Learned from this weeks session: always have a backup plan for everything you're planning to do!

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