Mike Harvey's blog

Teaching Myself Mod Development for Minecraft

It's an interesting time right now because two of my own educational interesting, computer science, and game-based learning (GBL) keep coming into the spotlight. "Code" and "Minecraft" have both become educational buzzwords in their own right. Recently, people have even realized that one can be a great vehicle for learning about the other. I first became brave enough to explore programming with Minecraft when I learned that TeacherGaming would be working with @Dan200 to create ComputerCraftEdu.

Code Studio Year 1 Wrap Up!

To kickoff the first year with the Code Studio courses, I brought Course 2 into myclassroom. My 300+ third and fourth grade students spent the first two months of 2015 technology classes working through a variety of the online and unplugged stages. It was a hit in all classes, with many students choosing to work at home. For those unaware, the course is designed to take about 20 hours. With 45-minute lessons, that would be the great majority of my class time with students so we sped through in eight-ten periods. Somehow, 24 students still found the time to complete the entire course! In this blog, I will describe how and why I deviated from the given progression and what I plan to do next year.

Code Studio Course 2

Progression in class

Stage 2: Real-life Algorithms: Paper Planes - Unplugged Activity Not directly covered in class
Learn to sign in
Stage 3: Maze: Sequence
Stage 4: Artist: Sequence
Week 1-2
Stage 5: Getting Loopy - Unplugged Activity
Stage 6: Maze: Loops
Stage 7: Artist: Loops
Stage 8: Bee: Loops
Week 3-4
Stage 1: Graph Paper Programming - Unplugged Activity
Stage 9: Relay programming - Unplugged Activity
Week 5
Stage 10: Bee: Debugging
Stage 11: Artist: Debugging
Week 6
Stage 12: Conditionals - Unplugged Activity
Stage 13: Bee: Conditionals
Stage 14: Binary Bracelets - Unplugged Activity
Not directly covered in most classes
Stage 15: The Big Event - Unplugged Activity
Stage 16: Flappy
Stage 17: Play Lab: Create a Story
Week 7
Stage 18: Your Digital Footprint - Unplugged Activity
Stage 19: Artist: Nested Loops
Not directly covered in most classes
Free Choice Week 8

Combining similar stages into a single class works!

My students love choices. One of the great things about the flow of the Code Studio courses is that there are often multiple stages that reinforce the same skills. For example, after introducing "loops," my students had the option to choice between Maze Loops, Artist Loops, and Bee Loops. It's important to me that they understand the concept but less important which character they use in the process. Typically the only students who will finish all stages and puzzles for a particular concept are the ones that take it home. I'm completely okay with that as long as every student is exposed to each concept.

It is okay if students go ahead.

I've heard stories of teachers who are anxious about letting students go on ahead. Perhaps it's easier for a teacher to imagine that all students will progress through the lessons at the same speed. This is of course not reality. In my mind, there is no justification for holding back a student's progress simply because it's convenient for ourselves as educators. If a student goes home and masters loops without my instruction, I will congratulate her and guide her towards the next appropriate challenge. Most of the concepts introduced in Course 1 or 2 and reinforced later on which allows for some excellent easy differentiation. During "The Big Event" last week I realized I had students in most classes who had already completed Course 2 entirely. Rather than just repeat "Flappy" or "PlayLab" above, I suggested they check out the "Make an App" button or even Bounce from Course 3. Both make use of events and reinforce what I am teaching.

Reflection on this year's pacing

Keeping our time in Code Studio brief was a necessity with everything else that I am to cover in a year. My students are showing particular strengths with sequences, loops, and events. Debugging is a concept that felt a bit rushed this year but can be easily slowed down in the future. It's worth noting that I made the conscious decision to omit "conditionals" from our studies this year. The concept is taught again during Course 3 and I currently believe that those puzzles do a better job of getting the idea across than the puzzles in Course 2.

Plans for next year
I genuinely believe my students are benefitting greatly from Code Studio. It has helped them to appreciate how much goes into making our technology work while simultaneously showing them that it's something they can learn to do themselves. A teacher's greatest enemy is time. If I can find a way to carve out more than 8 weeks for Code Studio next year, I will. Moving forward, third graders will continue to use Course 2 while fourth graders will use Course 3. I'm also comforted to know that that a seemingly endless supply of extension activities exist for students who are motivated to go on ahead.

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