Algorithmic Thinking + Literacy = ?

Since attending the GAFE PD at Sacred Heart a couple of weeks ago, algorithmic thinking has been on my mind (yes, I am a total nerd!). I attended a session with the fabulous, Dr Rebecca Vivian that focused on how to implement algorithmic thinking in practical ways.

We’ve been studying number patterns in Mathematics so this workshop was brilliant timing, allowing me to implement ideas straight away. We’ve also been focusing on writing information reports. An idea began to boil in my mind… what if instead of designing success criteria, students could use algorithmic thinking to create a flow chart for a successful information report.

I decided that I would attempt this task through Literacy Rotations. This meant that while other students were engaged in their specific rotational task, I could explicitly teach students in small groups about flow charts and the symbols… and it would link with the algorithmic work we were doing in Maths… even better!

I distributed to the students a template of the flow chart symbols (an example of the symbols but my example was much simpler) accompanied by an information report work sample (from ACARA work samples) which we’d previously studied and labelled.

As a small group, we then worked through the symbols and their meanings and I modelled how they might start their flow chart (Are you writing about something people will want to read? Yes? No?). In their small group, students then continued these draft diagrams. Here’s an example of a starting point.

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A flow chart for a successful information report.

From here, students began using the drawing tool in Google Docs to create flow charts that could be added to and adjusted more easily. Check out the example below:

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The start of a flow chart using Google Docs.

This continues to be a work in progress and these flow charts will develop as we continue to delve deeper into interesting and effective information report writing.

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Scavenger Hunts with Google

PRIOR TO THE SESSION

Today I tried something quite new (what a surprise!) and it was also quite complex. After reading Stephanie Perretta’s blog about Creating Self-Checking Scavenger Hunts with Google, I gave it a go myself. Stephanie has set up the resources for a first-timer so beautifully – thanks, Stephanie. Her instructions are so detailed that, for once, I had to read through something in a systematic way in order to accurately replicate the process.

Since we’re studying the Order of Operations (AKA BIDMAS, BODMAS, PEDMAS, BIMDAS etc.) and it’s a fairly linear process, I decided to create my scavenger hunt around this topic. I also wanted to add more than YouTube clips for remediation, too – this required some trouble shooting as I also wanted to use PlayPosit and Brainpop.

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A student completing a Brainpop PEDMAS game.

Setting it up was quite a process and, for once, I knew I actually had to test it myself as there were so many variables in play. Luckily, I did as there were a few aspects that didn’t quite “add up”.

However, not everything went exactly to plan but I’m a life-long learner with a growth mindset. Thus, I reflect on my experiences and work out how I can improve them next time;)

JUST BEFORE THE DAY

I set the QR codes in place the afternoon before –  ready for our lesson after recess on the following day. Then, at about 2.45pm the day before, a student came up to me saying “I found this QR code on the ground.” Annoying. I then had to search through the classroom to find where it may have been missing from.

JUDGEMENT DAY

I had prepped the students about the scavenger hunt just prior to the session. After recess, the first thing I did was provide students with a rubric and ask them to self-assess their knowledge of each aspect so far. I then asked the students to add a Chrome extension – The QR Code Extension – via an announcement on our Google Classroom page. Following this, students were free to scan in the QR code (strategically placed on the back of the rubric) and complete the first quiz.

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A student scanning a QR Code to go to the next quiz.

Here’s where things got a bit crazy. I didn’t consider that from that point at least half the class would be going to one site (the next question) and the rest would be going to the second site (the remediation for Q1). This had many students waiting around and also resulted in QR codes going missing.

We troubled-shot (?) through this quite quickly though and then we were off. There were a couple of other speed-humps though that I’ll navigate more carefully next time:

  1. Students neglected to actually press ‘Submit’ and therefore, they got confused and just started following friends around.
  2. Students neglected to return QR codes to their hiding place which meant that QR codes went missing.
  3. Some students didn’t watch the remediation videos which meant that they just re-did the final quiz until they finally chose the correct option rather than learning how to do it accurately.
  4. I neglected to mention that PEDMAS, BODMAS and BIDMAS are all the same thing which confused students.
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Students remediating with Khan Academy clips.

WHAT WILL I DO TOMORROW?

I’m going to start our Maths session explicitly teaching BIDMAS (order of operations). Then students will pick-up where they left off in the scavenger hunt.

On Wednesday, we’ll debrief the whole process in our class meeting so we can make it better for everyone next time.

Thanks again, Stephanie Perretta, who inspired me to think outside the box.