You Can Dance If You Want To

I have had the great pleasure and privilege of teaching alongside Mrs. Chrissy Levinson (@wusylkc) this semester. We co-teach a seventh and eighth grade Digital Media class, and this post is the first of a few installments describing our work together.

I have a lot to learn from Chrissy: she is intentional, thorough, creative, and very dedicated to her craft. She is also very willing to try new things with students, all of which make her a fantastic teaching partner.

This semester, we were graciously allowed to purchase four Finch robots:

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The finches are programmable in a few different coding languages, and we used them in our introduction to coding unit. Students used Scratch to program the Finches. Working individually, students first learned how to program in Scratch. Then working in groups of 6 (we have a larger class, with 24 total students), students teamed up to write a program as part of a contest:

A Finch dance-off to Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance.

Students first drafted their dance on a whiteboard.

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Then we took turns showing off the moves:

(I ran out of space on my phone so we sadly do not have our fourth group’s video documented here.)

As you might be able to tell from the videos, students manipulated the colors of the Finch’s nose and the directions that it turned/moved.

We asked students to reflect individually in writing after the unit, using the four following reflection prompts:

  1. (backward looking) What problems did you encounter? How did you solve them?
  2. (inward looking) What did you personally learn during this project?
  3. (outward looking) If someone else looked at the program and dance you created, what feedback do you think they would give you?
  4. (forward looking) What things do you want more help with?

Overall, I believe this unit was a success. It served to spark students’ interest with coding/programming, especially those students who are in their second or third semester of Digital Media. We are hopeful that some students might return to the Finches later in the semester when we have our 20% time unit. There is an opportunity to apply more advanced skills, coding in other languages such as Python and Ruby, to the Finch robot.

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