I'll freely admit where I'm struggling in class and keeping them all headed in the right direction with enough support is somewhere I am always in search of improving. Right now we've just started a new MicroWorlds project...one where I've just specified some generic things the program must do and then have left it's implementation form up to the kids.
And we designed this project to incorporate IM. In pairs sets, students are problem solving all the programming decisions, creating content and exporting turtles to each other via IM. They are not in the same classroom as their partner. So it is even more important to be very specific about what you want and how it must be seen in the project.
I spent one class period going over the project To Do list and we filled in some details from the project description. We marked whether or not each task would require the creation of a new turtle or writing a procedure. Simply putting a T or P or sometimes a TandP really helped the kids know what they had to do and how it had to take form in the final product. I took one class period to review the project details, using my School Pad to record their comments. What I wish we could do is to download To Do lists into another public place and then add the details on a per pupil basis. That would be really cool because then they would have a web-based version. Right now I have that for them, but it is on the printed out copy of the To Do list with pencil scribbles. And I also have the School Pad notes projected on the front wall. Thank goodness for my trusty little SchoolPad. It is the best classroom tool I've found to help e.
Yesterday was their first attempt at working with their partner. We had all sorts of problems getting IM to download because of how the network security permissions are set. But with that now being taken care of, the kids moved into talking to each other. Thank goodness for the To Do list. It shaped their conversations and kept them on topic. I'll have to admit though I was glad it was a Track Meet day. Not all of my kids were in class...in fact many are on the Track team and gone. So it was a good subset of kids to begin the work with. Today will be the real test of how well this front-loading of tasks needing to be done helps.
They love IM and the To Do lists. So their programming work is pretty neat because of how well they could talk to each other about their ideas. I have one pair that is creating a Country/Rap dance!!! Now would a teacher come up with that combo? Nope. I can hardly wait to see how it goes for them to not only make the dancers, but all the supporting turtle robots.