Programming ... kids play
When we think of computer programming, we usually do not imagine a preschool child doing it. What is computer programming?
A "program" is simply a series of steps that tell a computer what to do. In this case, the children created an instruction set for their rovers. We do something similar when we teach dance. Dance choreography is a perfect analog for computer programming. In the case of the 3 through 5 year old children at Montessori Children's House in Cypress, dance was the perfect way to incorporate the rover programming into their Spanish class.
Small "dance steps" for a child, one giant leap for the imagination!
The preschool children already knew, because this was Spanish class, they could only speak to their rover in Spanish. So, they would program it in Spanish: Izquierda (left), derecha (right), adelante (forward), atrás (backward). The children learned the direction words through a little dance:
Izquierda, izquierda Left foot, left foot (kick left foot out twice)
Derecha, derecha Right foot, right foot (kick right foot out twice)
Adelante Step forward
Atrás Step back
Uno, dos, tres Count 1, 2, 3
Teaching a Rover to Dance
Once the children learned the movements (in Spanish because this was for Spanish Class), they knew exactly what to tell their rover. The K'nex icon-based programming language made it really simple for the children to teach their rover to "dance".
First, they created an icon spelling the direction word in Spanish. The icon can be any design but these children created icons which spelled the word in Spanish. They had used the moveable Spanish alphabet in the classroom (vowels blue, consonants red), so the icons became simple words which looked like:
Next, they created a procedure to tell the rover to move in a certain direction and how long to move. For example, to move left, the program turned the right motor on for a specified amount of time and then turned the motor off. To move forward, both motors were turned on for a specified time and then turned off. Each procedure was programmed and individually tested by the older group of children (5 year olds).
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