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Engaging the uninterested with WPL

Posted 5 years ago
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This week is the Hour of Code and schools across the globe are encouraging students to try a few lines of code. Students across all grades are getting a taste of what it means to be a programmer. I'm working with a few elementary, middle and high schools in Champaign, IL to get students coding with the Wolfram Programming Lab this week.

Today was Day 1 of volunteering where I was working with three 5th grade classes. I wanted to share my experiences of how I saw coding engage these students. Here are the students that I worked with from Unit 4: enter image description here

For the most part, the students had never programmed with a text-based language...it's all been block-based programming in the past. I only had 40 minutes with them, so we had to move fast. I walked the students through the Getting Started exploration in the Wolfram Programming Lab, asking questions about the code along the way:

  • What is the name of the function in this line of code?
  • What do you think the output is going to be?
  • What is another input we could try? etc.

They were laughing and squealing having a great time coding.

I think one of the great things about teaching programming at the elementary grade level, is that students have the same experience - practically none. My students were starting off at the same point. Everyone felt successful straight out the gate. So when I called on various students, I could see that almost everyone was engaged...everyone understood what was going on. The engagement level was amazing! And what's more, those students that could type faster and grasped the concepts a little better were helping their peers.

I understand the difficulty for teachers to incorporate yet another thing into their classroom...but introducing programming and computational thinking is an excellent way to engage all your students. You don't need to add a "hook" activity...it's inherently interesting. I was only able to complete the Getting Started exploration today, but there are tons of activities in the Programming Lab to get students coding. There are additional resources available for teachers to start learning the Wolfram Language. We have on-demand training and guide for beginners with the Elementary Introduction for Wolfram Language.

Go beyond the Hour of Code and engage your students!

4 Replies

If I sign-up for Wolfram Programming Lab will I get access to additional explorations (perhaps staggered by tier)? It's the explorations which interest me the most and which I take it are what distinguishes Programming Lab from Mathematica Online. Is that correct?

As an adult beginner, I've really enjoyed working through the new Elementary Introduction for Wolfram Language. This is an excellent resource.

Yes, you'll get access to all the explorations.

And by signing in, you'll be able to save your progress on the activities as well.

Thanks. One more follow-up question: do the higher (paid) levels of access unlock additional explorations?

Hi Arno--

At higher paid levels of the Programming Lab you're able to download the desktop version and right now the only additional Explorations you would unlock are ones that are specific to the desktop. These are pretty cool and they cover things that you can only do on the desktop right now like applying effects to images from a camera in real-time.

Please let me know if you have any other questions!

Rob

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