Your Stories - Casa Mia Montessori School, Bassendean, WA

Casa Mia studients using Beebots

In Term 1, 2019 Casa Mia Primary School students in Bassendean had the opportunity for some incursions with Robin McKean, a Project Officer from the University of Adelaide’s Computer Science Education Research Group (CSER). She introduced the students to the concept of Algorithms, a sequence of specific instructions to be followed to perform a function or solve a problem, particularly by a computer.

This was done initially though ‘unplugged activities’ (without a computer), that the students were able to practically relate to. They used written and verbal instructions to program a simple dance sequence which their partner, acting as a robot had to perform. Students then converted these lengthy written instructions into a more simplified code using numbers and symbols eg, arrows denoting right, left, forward, backward, stop, go, etc.

This gave students a good practical understanding of an algorithm and the importance of clear, precise instructions so that the person (or computer) can follow them. They learned how a computer in particular will try to execute the instruction exactly as it is written as it cannot consider alternative interpretations like a human can. Students were also introduced to the concept of debugging an algorithm when it does not execute as expected. Students then learned how to program simple robots called BeeBots to move in specific directions and to negotiate simple obstacle courses.

In subsequent incursions, Robin introduced the Lower Primary School Students to the Ozobots. We were able to borrow the Ozobots from the CSER Lending Library to continue teaching the students about algorithms for the remainder of the term. Students enjoyed learning how to use black texta’s to create tracks which the Ozobots could follow using its ‘eyes’ (sensors). They then learned to create colour codes with texta’s which are incorporated into the black lines/tracks to program the Ozobots to perform functions such as varying their speed, turning right, left, spinning 180 or 360 degrees, etc. Once they understood how to program the Ozobots using the codes they then created colour coded algorithms to complete various movement challenges.

The use of colour coded algorithms is a simpler way for younger students to learn about coding/ programming, enabling easier progression to the use of the block coding application running on Ipads to program the Ozobots. Students will be learning how to use this in term 2. In the last few weeks of term, students also had the opportunity to use the larger, more animated and functional Dash robots.  They learned to operate them using the controller app on the Ipad to complete various navigation and obstacle challenges.

Casa Mia Montessori School values the Digital Technology support provided by the University of Adelaide’s Computer Science Education Research Group. Access to a Project Officer, the Lending Library and numerous online resources has enabled the school to better understand the Curriculum requirements and begin to implement it in a comprehensive and enjoyable way for the benefit of our students.

Story by James King, Science, Technology and Physical Education Teacher

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Thank you James for sharing your experience of working with Robin and the CSER resources! If you would like to share your story please email us at mailto:cser@adelaide.edu.au

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