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Page history last edited by Vance Stevens 4 years, 4 months ago



Teaching English through coding using collaborative projects

that don’t require specialist skills or even a computer 


I simulcasted a 25-min version of this workshop in Zoom from CamTESOL on Sun Feb 9 14:20-14:50 UTC. 

It was recorded and is available here, https://learning2gether.net/2020/02/09/teaching-english-through-coding-using-collaborative-projects-that-dont-require-specialist-skills-or-even-a-computer/ 


Slides for both workshops here: 



Why teach coding without using a computer? 






Background Reading



  • Golightly, Donna. (n.d.). Getting started with computational thinking. [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

    Unlike humans, computers are incredible at doing boring, repetitive tasks with flawless efficiency and accuracy. But the only way they can do them is when somebody can specifically instruct them what to do and how to do it. That process is called Computational Thinking algorithmic design, and an algorithm is nothing more than a set of instructions. When used in cooking the algorithm is called a recipe. When used in mathematics it is called an equation. In a basketball game we call it a play or a move, and when we use it in computer science we call it coding.

  • Golightly, Donna. (n.d.). How to get started with unplugged activities in your classroom. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

    Here, Golightly suggests using https://classic.csunplugged.org/ - Computer Science without a Computer
    which has countless activity suggestions and handouts, such as the ones presented in this workshop


Practical activities


Mission 1 Sorting algorithms


The tasks on sorting can be found here:


What exactly happens in a sort?


Think of how a computer sorts a list in Excel. How does it do that?

We then look at the worksheet to get an idea of how a programmer might approach this task.


Mission 1 at the 45 minute ThaiTESOL workshop - Sort a suit of cards


Participants divided themselves into groups.

Each group was given a set of 13 cards

(all in one suit, shuffled, or jumbled in random order).


Each group selects someone to write down on paper exactly what the group does to sort the cards


The mission is to sort the deck into the correct order ace to king

  • The group starts the sort
  • The designated person writes down exactly what was done,
  • You must include ALL the steps in order to make your insructions into an Algorithm.
    • At the end of the sort, report how many steps it took to sort all 13 cards 
  • When the task is done each team reports to the group how they accomplished this mission 


Mission 2 Search algorithms


Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/unloveable/2387695025 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ 


The search missions are set in the context of a classic battleship game. The handout shows three ways of searching

Participants scan the handout and briefly discuss the three kinds of searches.


While they are doing that, the presenter will start playing an online version of that game showing how the computer strategizes and how you might do the same




This search uses a HASHING algorith. But we cheated! We used a computer.


We'll play the game using a BINARY search algorith, whereby the battleships are pre-sorted into numerical order. 




Workshop outcomes at ThaiTESOL


Here, I am putting some last minute major touches on the slides just prior to starting the workshop
Photo by my beautiful assistant Bobbi Stevens


and now it's all ready, so GO :-)


What happened at the 45-minute workshop?


Success beyond my expectations ...

The teacher-centered presenter was brushed aside and the participants took over, exactly what should happen in our classes



An example of critical minds at work re-shaping the learning environment around their own goals :-)


How did this happen?


It was the presenter's fault. My beauiful assistant and I had played the battleship game weeks ago when we had discovered these materials, and it was so simple that we hardly looked at it again but instead got our minds around coming to grips with how the sorts work. This consumed us to the extent that on the day of the presentation we focused on the sorting algorithms and assumed the battleship game would follow naturally. It didn't, because each of us had forgot the rule through which the sort would be applied. You give a location and the partner needs to give you the number of the ship in that location, which you then enter on your worksheet. That way, you learn some of the ship numbers in locations A through Z and this enables you to hone in on the ship you are looking for.


I missed this when I tried to play with the workshop participants in Bangkok, and Bobbi had forgot it as well. BUT one participant took over and interjected her own theory and we got to see language and communication at play. The language benefit of talking about coding is to tease out people's approaches and solutions to problem solving. It's not a question of the teacher telling you how to do it (i.e teacher teaching coding), the language benefit is to elicit from the students descriptions of algorithms they think might work, and discussion follows on that. So our lapse elicited exactly what we were looking for.


I asked the participant if I could upload my video of her doing this, and she agreed. I did so against this byline 

Vance Stevens forgot exactly how to conduct an activity he was presenting, thus creating a knowledge gap in a recent presentation at ThaiTESOL on "Teaching English through coding using collaborative projects that don’t require specialist skills or even a computer". A participant named Kashivee stood up and attempted to fill in that gap. As the thrust of the workshop was to suggest that teaching coding has potential to elicit language from and among students, Kashivee illustrated spontaneously what the presenter asserts that teaching around the subject of coding is meant to accomplish. 



To prevent the lapse next time I conduct this workshop (on Feb 9 at 04:20 UTC at CamTESOL in Phnom Penh), where I hope to elicit a correctly guided conversation, my beautiful assistant and I prepared the instructions graphic we need to run the workshop more efficiently in the 25 min we'll have for it at CamTESOL on Feb 9, 2020.



More tweets with pictures



These materials were created by Vance Stevens, https://learning2gether.net 

for presentation at ThaiTESOL in Thailand in January, 2020

You are free to share-alike and with attribution under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

The date of this update is February 14, 2020




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