You haven’t heard from me in about a year. Been busy. Worked with 6th graders at our local middle school’s STEM class. Finished this June (2018). These were the first “students” that I taught who weren’t masters or Ph.D. students. Quite a change. The start was as expected, but I started moving too fast (tell me you are surprised) and had to listen more carefully to determine a better pace.
I’m taking this experience and have crafted a starter course that will be a combination of text and (mostly) video(s). Check out the “Courses” tab.
So, what will you learn? How does it relate to problem-solving, in the spirit of Supersolvrs?
Here’s the approach & rationale.
The classic recipe for solving a problem is straightforward.
- Understand it.
- Devise a “Solving Plan”.
- Carry out the plan.
- Evaluate the solution for accuracy.
- Could this solution be part of other problem solutions?
Easy-peasy, right? Well, it can be, but often the “problem” is not all that well defined. AND/OR, the solution is not obvious. The usual play is to break the problem down into smaller ones that can be more easily solved. Then you’ll have to somehow “glue” those solutions together at the end. It probably will involve a bunch of searches, calculations, etc. that humans are not very good at. A computer will be needed (at least for many). Not to worry, I’ll get you started properly.
Big problem: How to use a computer for a problem that your iPhone app wasn’t designed to solve? You’ll have to get warm & fuzzy with the machine and “tell it what to do”. Yep, you’ll have to program it.
Of course, you could have (hire?) someone else to do the programming — no shortage of folks around. (I just Googled, “Help, I need a programmer. I got 120 million hits). However, you would have to describe not only the problem but a method of solving it. In other words, you’d have to “program” the programmer — or at least show him/her some of the solution logic. Tricky, if you are not familiar with a) How a computer really works, and b) its language. (Called, machine language)
I’ve chosen to teach one of the main ways to program, a graphics language called Scratch. Developed at MIT mainly as a teaching tool for kids. However, it is a “full-blown” (technical term) language that’s been around for a while & now sports some 34 million projects from millions of kids.
Also, I’ve found that building a simple video game (not just playing it) is a great way to explore not only the “how to talk to a computer” part, but also, the “how to break down and think through a problem” part.
Is this approach the best way to start? I think so. I tried it with my 6th graders and they picked it all up easily. Scratch has a great “bang for the buck”. You see what you have programmed visually, right away. That almost instant feedback is very helpful.
So, mosey over to the Courses section and give it a try. A freebie but I’d like some feedback.