Computational Thinking – Unplugged activities

We have been creating a lot of activities that allow teachers and students to hone their computational thinking skills, but without needing to use a computer to do so. These non-computerised computational thinking activities are called “unplugged” activities.

We have been sharing these resources with our clients and they have been testing them. The feedback from our clients and the students is that they are really engaging.

Binary coding – unplugged CT

I have been creating lots of resources lately and have been trialling them with students in classes. This latest one is an unplugged Computational Thinking activity that illustrates to students how images are encoded into binary and sent over the internet and then rendered into an image on the receiving computer. The students emulate this by calling out their code to each other, one encoding their image design into binary and calling out the binary code to the receiver to reassemble the image and then error check.

This student is doing the high resolution challenge and is making a QR code to then encode to send to another student

Binary unplugged activity

We have just created a new resource that allows students to understand how data is transmitted in binary code and re-compiled at the destination computer into something recognisable, in this case a series of black and white images. In the unit we begin to investigate the impact of resolution on transmission and introduce the concept of error checking.

If you would like more information about this resource, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Simple Machines

I have started to implement my “Cardboard Automata” unit of work at several schools this week. It has been interesting to observe how the students engage with this open ended construction task. At the moment they are in the immersion phase, understanding the relationship between gears and cams and how they could potentially manipulate this information to make something move. Doing this investigation in cardboard has also thrown up lots of interesting bumps in the road for the students.

Their construction skills, their preponderance to eschew rulers and box cutters and use guestimation and blunt scissors is a sight to behold! We will need to have some deep reflection about their construction process and its impact upon the effectiveness of the outcome, before we move onto the meat of the project! Fun to be part of though.

Students at Howick working on their first cardboard automata

Remote Controlled Gate

I spent the last week in Hokitika working on a DT/HM PLD contract. On Thursday I worked with the STEM teacher from the High School who works with the students from contributing schools. We set up the students with an initial challenge to work out how the radio function works on the Micro:Bits so that the students could send “texts” to each other. Once they had mastered this skill we set the students the main challenge to design and build a remote controlled farm gate.

In the first instance we had to show them how to configure the Adafruit Crickit to work with the Micro:Bit. Once we had led them through this task, we left them to the challenge. This is the end result:

Hamilton – STEAM workshop

We ran a very successful STEAM workshop at Te Ao Mārama School in Flagstaff, Hamilton today. We had 15 teachers arrive at the school, several of whom I had worked with in the past, some a very long time ago! It was good to see old colleagues again. The focus today was on using the principles of STEAM pedagogy to engage students in their learning and also focusing on the soft skills of the NZC.

To focus the teachers on these soft skills we showed them the trailer from the “Most Likely to Succeed” video on Vimeo and suggested that they watch this video to make them consider how they need to adapt their pedagogy to meet the needs of our students to be successful in the workplace of the future.


Trailer for Most Likely to Succeed

The teachers had a great day and they all said that they had a lot of “fun” working on the challenges we set for them. This is how it should be in class!

Food Pyramid

I have had a pretty productive week working with schools to put together DT/HM PLD applications, I hope that they are all successful. In addition I have been working with a number of schools on some very exciting projects for term 3. We have already had a pretty innovative term 2 with our Matariki Star Domes, our AR writing projects and others.

Next term promises to be just as innovative, I have a large interactive games wall in the pipeline that will utilise Makey Makeys controlling coded tumbling dice, solderless electronics and a game board controller made from cardboard, transmedia book studies and this Food Pyramid computational thinking game designed for intermediate students, term three could be even more innovative than term 2. Watch this space for more details and contact me if you want to know more.

Students have to create a fridge that helps the user make appropriate food choices .

Star Dome – Completed

I have been working with several schools this term on my Star Dome project for Matariki. The first project was completed today. The students have been highly engaged and motivated by this project and the results speak for themselves.

Hopefully another Star Dome will be completed tomorrow and an accompanying video should be published with that post too. In the meantime take a look at this first project. The teacher, Devon Hiley has posted the photos to the Primary Teachers group on Facebook too.

Screen shot of Devon’s post to Facebook
Students inside the dome

AIMS principals DT/HM conference

This week we delivered a day long DT/HM PD workshop to a group of Auckland AIMS principals. The day consisted of us unpacking the revised Digital Technologies Curriculum document, including how schools can apply for DT/HM PLD. As the day progressed it became clear that not many schools were fully aware that there is PLD funding to help schools implement the revised curriculum and so they were very pleased with the information we were able to share with them. Already four schools from the day have sought additional support from us to guide them through the application process.

During the day we got the principals to do some practical work too. We showed them the learning potential that can be gained from “unplugged” as well as computer based computational thinking activities. In the images below you can see the principals working their way through one of the two “unpugged” activities we provided for them. In the afternoon we had the princpals, flying drones, creating remote controlled cars as well as programming robots.


AIMS principals at the DT/HM PLD day at the Remuera Club
Working through the CT cycle on an “unplugged” activity
Being stuck was part of the process!

Marching Ants

I do “brain gym” warm up activities with the students I work with. This week I had the children doing one of my “unplugged” CT PO2 activities, Marching Ants. It is an algorithmic thinking challenge, and as an added twist this week I got the students to solve the problem with furniture. The video below is the result.