Category: Problem solving

5 (free) Tech Problem Solving Posters

Every month, we’ll share five themed posters that you can share on your website (with attribution), post on your walls, or simply be inspired.

This month: Problem-solving

tech problems


problem solving


tech ed quote


common computer problems


problem solving

–for the entire collection of 65 posters, click here. If this link doesn’t work (we’re redoing the website), visit Ask a Tech Teacher’s Free Posters page or search ‘Posters’ on StructuredLearning.net.

–Comments are closed but feel free to contact me via Twitter (@askatechteacher).



Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

6 Unplugged Activities for Hour of Code

Hour of Code–December 7th-12, 2020–is a time when teachers show students why they should love-not-fear coding and students find out that these activities — often seen as geeky or impossible — aren’t. They’re actually fun.

Over the next week, I’ll share ideas that will get you ready for your Hour of Code. This includes (links won’t work until the articles are posted):

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These suggestions go back to the roots of coding. The idea started as a clever way to teach students to think critically and problem-solve. The easiest way was to gamify coding, put students on a digital device they loved, and set them free. One hour, according to Hour of Code, would show them that deep thinking was fun and problem-solving was exhilarating.

I happen to agree. Some of my most gratifying moments are when I accomplish the impossible, unravel a Mobius Strip-like problem, or force myself to do what I’ve never before done. Hour of Code does that every year for oh many students. But here’s my issue: Too often, kids forget that the goal is to practice critical thinking and problem solving, not pursue a career in programming.

Let’s reinforce that goal by stepping away from digital device, recognize that these skills — critical thinking and problem-solving — apply to any part of life, even without a computer, iPad, or smartphone in hand. All kids need is their brain which happily, every child carries with them.

Here are some of my favorite unplugged activities:

Crazy Circuits With Squishy Circuits

I admit, when I first received this kit, I didn’t get the name–Crazy Circuits with Squishy Circuits. I couldn’t get my brain around all those words until I unwrapped the box and pulled the parts out. Then I got it: This had a ton of promise. If you’ve ever made Play Dough at home or in science class and used it as conductors and insulators–that’s the squishy part. When you poke circuits that light up or run motors or a bunch of other stuff into the dough–that’s the crazy part. With this relatively inexpensive kit, a wide age range of students learn about seemingly complicated topics such as insulators, conductors, resistance, and parallel and series circuits.

This is ready to go out of the box which means no soldering required.

How to Use it

The Crazy Circuits With Squishy Circuits kit includes six containers of colored squishy dough–some conductive and some insulating–and a variety of Crazy Circuits Chips. You don’t have to make anything or buy anything else. Detailed directions, project guides, educational resources, and videos can be found online in the Ward’s Science database. Crazy Circuits are compatible with LEGO™ and similar brick building systems.

If you’re wondering how squishy dough can conduct electricity, watch this 4-minute TED Talk. Though the video shows how to make the dough, you don’t have to do that. Ward’s Science sends it as part of the kit. You just attach the circuits, motors, and conductors, and let your creativity flow:

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10 Unusual Projects for Hour of Code

Over the next week, I’ll share ideas that will get you ready for Hour of Code. This includes (links won’t work until the articles are posted):

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Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate.

December 7-12, 2020 Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Here are ten unusual projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

  1. Alt Codes
  2. Animation
  3. Coding with pixel art
  4. Human robot
  5. Human algorithm
  6. IFTTT
  7. Macros
  8. QR codes
  9. Shortkeys
  10. Wolfram Alpha widgets

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Coding Websites/Webtools by Grade

Over the next week, I’ll share ideas that will get you ready for your Hour of Code. This includes (links won’t work until the articles are posted):

This is a long list of online activities related to coding and programming. It is updated once a year so I apologize in advance for any dead links. At any time during the year, click to take you to the master list:

Program on computers, iPads, laptops–whatever works, whatever age. I’ll start this list with web-based options, by grade level and then continue with a mash-up:

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Hour of Code? Here’s why to participate

December 7-12th, 2020, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Coding is that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike.  It feels like:

When it should feel like:

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Should Coding be a Part of the Modern School’s Curriculum?

As educators struggle with the best way to teach critical thinking and problem solving, coding has proven to be an effective and flexible tool. Is it time to add ‘coding’ to the essential subjects taught at every school? Here’s a thoughtful addition to that conversation:

Should Coding be a Part of the Modern School’s Curriculum?

There’s no denying that coding is now regarded as an essential ability for learners. While most parents agree that it should be part of the modern school’s program, only a small percentage (about 40% of schools) teach coding. The number one reason cited by superintendents and principals for not offering this integral computer skill is time scarcity. They argue that the teaching focus needs to be on core subjects, which are often measured by standardized tests. But, should coding be taught in schools from an early age. Here’s what you need to know. Before we dive in too deep, let’s first understand what coding is like for kids.

How Does Coding for Kids Work?

Coding basically refers to giving instructions to the computer to obtain certain results, such as video games, apps, websites, and computer software. Although producing these results using computer programming isn’t an easy feat, coding is super simplified for kids. There are plenty of easy ways to teach kids how to code, such as using the fun hour of the code activities that are available online. As the name suggests, these activities only take one hour and give kids an excellent opportunity to learn necessary computer programming skills.

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Hour of Code: How Students Can Build Their Own Apps

In my high school teacher forums, as part of the discussion on preparing kids for college and career, we talk a lot about the huge shortfall in applicants for a growing list of tech jobs. Despite robust pay, excellent work conditions, and the value they place on creativity, jobs sit open. How do we get kids excited about careers that traditionally sound boring and math-oriented? Websites like Code.org have a great approach to making coding accessible to all kids but still, too few students think they are smart enough to do these jobs.

Time to reveal a secret I learned over the years. When I let students play Minecraft, Scratch, or a handful of other top-notch games, they eagerly — even happily — complete the programming and coding parts without ever considering it “math” or “smart”. I’ve seen them spend hours building a virtual world exactly the way they want it without getting bored or distracted.

By High School, the choice between college and career is foremost with life-changing consequences based on what the student decides. Often the choice depends upon the student’s goals. This topic could fill volumes but today, I want to focus on the job of building apps. App Developer is listed as number three on ThinkAdvisor’s list of the best jobs of the future, with a projected growth of 57% through 2020 (according to the BLS). There aren’t a lot of jobs where people can make money doing what they love.

Aside from future jobs, there are great reasons why even kids who want to become doctors or lawyers (or farmers) would benefit from learning the lesson of app building:

  • Apps teach real-world skills like design, marketing, video production, project management, presentation skills, and special media use.
  • The app building process requires creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving — all fundamental to success in lots of jobs.
  • Good app developers are collaborators, willing to work with others to ensure the app is accomplished on time and according to specs.
  • Good app developers are decision makers, not afraid to be risk-takers in building something no one has done before.

As I dug into the background of “app building” to prepare this article, I found that it doesn’t just refer to the little buttons you click to see about today’s weather or add numbers or find your friends (well, find their phones). App developers are the first ones who try out the latest trendy devices. Wouldn’t you love to experiment with 5G on your smartphone or play with Samsung’s foldable phone? Or how about wearable devices like the embedded chips intended to replace employee cards? An app developer used all of these before they ever went on sale. App developers can work for software companies, retailers, in healthcare, in the travel industry, for the entertainment industry, or in financial services. CNN Money has called “app developer” the best job in America.

Once you’ve explained to students what it really means to be on the cutting edge of the high-tech world, let them try one (or more) of these six great app creation tools:

  • App Inventor (from MIT)
  • Code HS (an app building curriculum)
  • Glide (how to create apps from spreadsheets)
  • MAD-learn (a beginning to end app development program for K-12)
  • Thunkable (a curriculum)
  • TinyTap (geared for teachers but fine for the right student group)

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Websites for Hour of Code by Grade

This December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

hour of code

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Look at what happened and fix where it went wrong.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are a series of activities — broken down by grade — that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

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Hour of Code 101

December 9-15th, 2019, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. This year’s theme:

Computer Science for Good #CSforGood

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike.  It feels like:

When it should feel like:

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Solve 50% of Tech Problems with 16 Simple Solutions

tech problems The Number One reason–according to students–why their computer doesn’t work is… It’s broken. As a teacher, I hear this daily, often followed by the solution, I need a different computer. My students innately think computer problems are something they can’t solve. I asked them what happened in class when I wasn’t there to fix the problem, or at home. I usually got a shrug and one of these responses:

  • My classroom teacher can’t fix them.
  • My mom/dad can’t fix them.
  • The school tech people couldn’t get there fast enough.

Which got me thinking about how these problems that bring learning to a screeching halt really aren’t that complicated They don’t require a Ph.D in engineering or years of experience in IT. So why not teach kids how to troubleshoot their own problems?

I started with a list. Every time a student had a tech problem, I wrote it down and then ticked it off each time it happened. It didn’t take long to determine that there are about sixteen problems that happen often and repetitively. Once students learned how to solve these, they’d be able to fix half of the problems that bring their education to a screeching halt. I spent the school year teaching the solutions authentically as they arose starting in Kindergarten. By the end of 2nd grade, students felt empowered, By the end of 5th grade, they rarely asked for help.

Here’s my list but yours may be different. Include those that arise granularly in your school’s educational endeavor. For example, if you use Macs, right-click issues won’t be as big a deal.

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