Do you know that coding and computational thinking
can be practiced at school without a computer? In this video, I’ll explain how. Look at this card. The straight arrow can be seen as a simple instruction
that tells a robot to move forward, but in order to use it as an instruction, I need to make sure that
the robot does exactly what I expect it to do. That’s why I’ve used this tape
to mark a chessboard on the floor. Naír is pretending to be a robot and we agreed that this arrow means
moving into the square in front of her. We have also other instructions:
turn right, red card, and turn left, yellow card, to tell Naír to turn around
90 degrees clockwise and anti-clockwise. With this simple instruction set,
I can write a program like this to make Naír reach the target cell. Move forward, turn left,
move forward, move forward. This simple activity allows us
to experience the separation of roles between a programmer and an ideal performer that is a computer or a robot
that does exactly what the programmer says. To explain a procedure to a robot,
I have to split it into elemental instructions, and be so precise that I end up with a better
understanding of that procedure than I had before. That is why coding is so important
to develop computational thinking skills. It’s a matter of self-empowerment. Once we understand
the separation of roles, we can get rid of technology and
just play coding as a role game. Now I’m a coder, Cody,
and Naír is a robot, Roby, and that’s why
this activity is called CodyRoby. Coding activities that don’t make use of
any electronic device are called “unplugged”. Unplugged coding may sound
like an oxymoron but it makes a lot of sense because it breaks access barriers
while retaining all the magic of coding. If I print CodyRoby cards smaller, I can save paper and make a deck
that fits into a card box like this. And now I can play on a board,
moving Roby pieces by hand. There are also special blue cards and I have no time to explain here
what the special blue cards mean but see the effect
that they can make on Naír. CodyRoby is not a game, it is more like
a do-it-yourself programming environment. I can use it to develop and
play many different games and you can invent your own to allow your students to develop
computational thinking skills while playing. This is the tourist. Tommaso is pretending to be a tourist
asking his classmates for directions to a castle. Two teams compete to provide
the right sequence as fast as possible. The sequence provided by the first and
the fastest team is tested first, under the supervision of the other team. This is the duel. Two players, or two teams,
control two Roby pieces on the board or two human robots, Naír and Tommaso in this case,
on the floor, starting from opposite corners. They take their cards from a shuffled deck and
use them to make their robots catch each other. Wins the one getting to the square
already occupied by the other one. Instead of catching each other, the two robots
can race to reach a common target, like this. If we add question cards to the board,
the race becomes a competence Cody game where the teams have to answer the questions
hidden behind the question marks they step into. You can use this game
to test the competencies of your students on any topic that you are teaching. For a full description of these activities,
please have a look at the lesson plans below. They are very easy to follow and
you can directly use them with your students. CodyRoby is just an example but there are plenty of unplugged
coding activities that you can propose. For instance, you could play
with cryptography, with pixel art or directly with
the algorithms that we use every day. Just start from a common task
like opening a book at a given page and challenge your students to describe
the procedure to be applied to accomplish it, possibly giving instructions to each other. For instance, I usually start
by opening the book in the middle to see if the page that I am looking for
is in the first or in the second half. Then I iterate. Is this approach general enough
to be seen as an algorithm? I leave this question open
because now it’s your turn. Unplugged activities bring
coding at your fingertips. Take advantage of Code Week
to give it a try with your students and add your pin to the map.

Coding without computers (unplugged), by Alessandro Bogliolo
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2 thoughts on “Coding without computers (unplugged), by Alessandro Bogliolo

  • September 21, 2018 at 5:10 am
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    Carinissima questa "pillola" in inglese: la userò nei prossimi giorni per una lezione CLIL nelle mie classi! Perfetta per il primo approccio a CodyRoby con gli alunni delle quinte che non hanno mai praticato coding…

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  • November 27, 2018 at 11:01 pm
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    Per me invece è stata davvero un'impresa capirla ….ma ho captato che ha parlato anche di COmpetence CodyGame! Che emozione!!!!

    Reply

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