Hi! My name is Ellie Werner and I am a product intern at littleBits. Prior to joining this innovative team, I was an educator. I have spent the past few years in a range of elementary and middle school classrooms around the world and I am now working towards earning my graduate degree in Cognitive Sciences at Teachers College of Columbia.
So now I find myself out of the classroom, away from the inexplicably sticky fingers of second graders and unfiltered chatter of fifth graders, and into a NYC office where littleBits calls home. And yet, I have found things aren’t all that different (I mean, you don’t have to be in fifth grade to know a good snack really can turn your day around). The littleBits office is buzzing with the energy of a classroom. Interactive inventions fill the workspace from wall to wall and team members excitedly share ideas on how best to support educators and inspire ‘that kid”.
One of the projects I’ve been most excited to contribute to is designing content for the newly launched littleBits Classroom, where educators have access to hundreds of engaging lessons and teaching resources. While content surrounding specific subject areas is certainly important, I’ve always valued putting a focus on content that got students engaged in thinking about how they learn. Perhaps it is my teaching style that often follows many aspects of constructivist philosophy, but I have always been a strong proponent of students understanding their best learning and problem-solving abilities. A learner who knows how to confidently approach a problem will be able to solve it more effectively and continue to seek out more difficult problems. It is here that the Computational Thinking Unit was born.
Why Computational Thinking?
Computational thinking put simply is a set of problem-solving processes that involve expressing problems and solutions in a way that a computer could execute. It is essential for becoming proficient in computer science, but more importantly it is a thinking skill that can be applied across curriculums! Computational thinking is no longer isolated to the computer science classroom. Take Google’s Computational Thinking for Educators course and you find that there are ways this problem-solving strategy can be integrated across subject areas. In humanities, social studies, math, engineering…more and more educators are finding just how valuable this thinking process can be in all content areas.
Here it was, a problem-solving strategy that I knew littleBits would be able to bring to life in a fun and engaging way. So pack your bags, because in this unit - we’re going on a Mission to Mars!
The littleBits Computational Thinking Unit
I’ve designed four hands-on, space themed lessons that introduce students to the four pillars of computational thinking and then put their skills into practice. In the decomposition lesson, you’ll explore how to break down complex problems by working as a class to build systems for a Mars Space Habitat. Then apply their knowledge of pattern recognition through an alien identification game and use teamwork, abstraction and algorithms to build a robotic space arm. Finally, challenge students to combine all of their computational thinking skills to construct a Crew Exploration Vehicle to explore the Martian surface, and beyond!
So if you are looking to engage your learners in hands-on computational thinking practices and foster problem-solving skills that are valuable across all subject areas, have your students grab their Computational Thinker's Toolkit and blast off with littleBits’ new Computational Thinking Unit! The Curriculum Guide provides more detail on how to easily implement and assess these CSTA and NGSS aligned lessons. While the unit is designed for middle schoolers using the STEAM Student Set, lessons and handouts are yours to customize in Google docs.
Let us know how it goes! Share pictures and videos of your computational thinkers in action with us on social media by tagging @littleBits or # littleBits.