Spreadsheets and Databases: How can they help my kids code?
Spreadsheet and databases are effective tools to help people collect, organize, and display data. Up until this activity, I purely used spreadsheets and databases in this way. I keep my grade book in Excel and really enjoy the different features that help me display student data to classroom parents and administrators. During this activity I had to think critically and creatively about beneficial and engaging ways that spreadsheets and/or databases could help me teach my first graders to code. Through research and interaction with many online resources, I found some pretty cool activities to implement into my coding curriculum. The power of technology integration never ceases to amaze me. I really had to think outside the box on this assignment. It is so empowering to develop skills that help maximize a softwares ability, even if it is not for the obvious intended purpose of that software. Below I will highlight some "out of the box" resources and activities that use spreadsheets and databases.
Trial and error is a natural part of coding with young children. Failure is an important part of learning and young kids generally handle failure much better that adults which makes them great coding students! When teaching first grade, I am always looking for ways teach data collection on graphing. The process of collecting data is much more powerful if it relates to a real experience. I think that using the trial and error process of coding as part of our data analysis goals would be a seamless and natural implementation. To the left, you see an example of a pie graph created to illustrate the number of successes, near successes, and failures of coding with our coding robots Dash and Dot. I could see this process really engaging the children in my classroom. I look forward to implementing it soon!
"Unplugged" Game Creation
Putting down devices and teaching coding "unplugged" is a powerful experience. Kids learn to use their bodies and a guide to help them code. It is so fun to watch them turn and twist to act out code. Spreadsheet and database software can be used to create and print grid "game boards" for kids to use to create these games. To the left, you see a game we created called "move the bear to the honeypot". The kids "wrote" the code below with coding arrow cards. The game taught them to build basic coding sequences while also teaching them to "debug" and retry code as they made errors. I also like the idea of having the kids go back and make an "answer key" in Excel to include with each game board to help their peers. The could print the below spreadsheet and tape it to the back of the game board!
I never thought of using spreadsheet software to create a journal. This was a cool find! Teaching kids to take a moment to stop and reflect is such and important teaching practice. In this example, Excel is providing an easy to use format for journaling for kids. I could see my kids journaling about their big successes or epic failures using an activity like this. They could screen capture their favorite lines of code and add those to the journals as well. They could use conditional formatting to color code their favorite entries to share with peers and parents. The can use the sheet function to create multiple journal entries that they can refer to over the course of a semester or school year.
Interactive Game Design
While Spreadsheet and database software could be used to created "unplugged" games to help to coding, they can also be used to create online, interactive games as well. This activity, which I will also highlight below, was create using Google Slides. The game is a play on "tic tac toe" but is aimed at teaching conditions and "if/then statements" using the conditional formatting features of the Google Slides software. These games could be played with peers in class but the game could also be shared with peers all over the country with the "share" feature. A student could play the "tic tac toe" game with someone in Canada, China, or even Europe all while learning an important coding skill in a fun, engaging way.
Sometimes teaching coding can be complex and tricky. I always hope to come across games and activities that will teach my first graders core coding concepts while also promoting fun and engaging play. The goal of the interactive spreadsheet below is to reiterate conditional "if/then" statements. After teaching the vocabulary and relating "if/then" statements to life and other curriculum areas, I would have the kids engage in this game. I would share the "conditional formatting" format I applied to the game.
By showing the conditional formatting I applied, it will really help the kids see how the game was designed. It will be very beneficial for them to see that without the conditions we created there would be no way to the turn the boxes blue or red. Without those conditions and "if/then" statements, the game wouldn't be fun at all. There is really no data that drives the game. However, the entering of 1 and 2 to create the different colors could be seen as the "data" that is driving the lesson and game. The data wouldn't be data in the traditional sense but more a coding feature and skill that creates the game and illustrates conditions in coding.
Click on the link below to play!
Click on the link below to play!
Please clear board when you are done playing :)
Below is what the game board looks like.