Minefield – In this activity students engage in real-world programming giving instructions to a blind robot (a partner) to navigate them through an imaginary minefield. The minefield might be setup using beanbags, sports cones, flat discs or virtually anything that can become an obstacle without injuring the robot being directed. The programmer (person giving instructions) will have to be careful that their instructions are clear, precise, repeatable and unambiguous to ensure the robot is receiving the correct information. If a robot steps on a mine the pair is sent back to the beginning of the minefield to discuss what went wrong and try again.
Links to algorithms and programming:
This activity provides students with opportunities to practise giving precise instructions about movement direction, length of step and number of steps that need to be taken. The activity becomes more complex when you take into consideration the involvement of other players and their movements. Another alternative is to encourage students to write down their plan before implementing the directions. Potentially students can even create their own imaginative language that only the programmer and the robot know. This will increase the challenge but also encourage stronger links to real world programming languages.
Year 5 and 6:
Generating and Designing – (ACTDIP019)
Mathematics – Integration of various mathematics curriculum links from Measurement and Geometry content strands, Geometric reasoning and patterns and algebra. The minefield activity could be integrated into a unit in order to reinforce content learned in class and transfer it to a new environment.
English – This unit could be integrated into the English curriculum by the examination and production of procedural texts. As all programming represents is a procedure it will make for an excellent topic and a high ceiling for students who want to further explore a complex programming language.
Although this activity combines many elements of the TPACK model where teachers are developing their knowledge of technology, content and pedagogy it will require a narrow focus to be effective. I think there may be a tendency to try and meet many areas of the content using this one activity. This should be avoided as it is still important that students gain a wide exposure to digi tech concepts from a variety of sources.