A #CompSciAdventure – Part One : Strings (Version 2)

Willow Harmony Starkweather stood in the shadow of the giant skeleton staring up at the small skull, several metres above her head.

“Willow!”

Her grandfather’s gruff voice disturbed her daydreams.

“Come on, young lady. You’re not here to stand staring at the specimens, you’re here to work.”

She sighed under her breath and followed her grandfather.

“I need you to help Spool,” he said, his heavy boots echoing on the stone floor.

“What’s he done now?”

Spool, a Data Handling Daemon, was known throughout the museum for his extreme clumsiness.

“All of the display signs  in the Dinosaur section have been muddled up.I need you to help him sort out the letters.”

Her grandfather suddenly stopped, turned and looked down at Willow with a puzzled look on his bearded face. He coughed before gesturing to the sign on the wall beside him.

“Oh,” she said looking up at the picture of a stickman. “I’ll go and find Spool.”

She backed away and after her grandfather had entered the toilets she turned and ran off back down the corridor towards the museum’s main lobby.

 

When she reacher the lobby she pressed a button to summon an elevator. The lift doors opened almost immediately, she stepped in and pressed the button labelled Floor[1]. The elevator then proceeded to transport her up to the next floor of the museum where the dinosaur exhibits were housed.

 

She found Spool in the middle of the hallway , stood in front of three large crates.

“Hello Willow,” he called out as she approached.

“Grandfather said you needed my help?”
“Why, yes, thank you. Someone has cut all the strings. He gestured behind him to one of the exhibits where a piece of knotted string hung down in front of the glass. Willow stepped towards the exhibit. Behind the glass all she could see was thick black smoke and strange pink letters floating mysteriously in the air. ExhibitError : Exhibit is not defined.

“Without the correct string, the exhibit spellgorithm will not run properly, he muttered as he tried to reach into the first crate. UNfortunately, being a Daemon meant that he was too short to reach inside.

“Let me, “ said Willow as she knelt beside the crate. “What’s in the box?”

“A List.”

“List?”

“Yes, a list of strings – each string contains a prefix –  the bits at the front of a dinosaurs name. I need you to find the correct one when I ask for it.”

“How will I know which one you need?”

 

Spool pointed at a pair of numbers etched into the wooden window frame. “The numbers tell you which string to pick from each list.”

 

“Ok Spool, so what is the first number?” WIllow asked.

“Two”.

Willow looked inside the first crate. It was full of pieces of card, each with letters printed on them and tied together in groups with pieces of string. She reached in and picked out the second group of cards and passed them to Spool. He held them out; the characters spelt out “DEINO”

“Next crate,” he said. “Number 8.”

Willow rummaged in the second crate and pulled out another string of letters. This time they read “RAPTOR”

 

Spool lay the two strings on the floor in front of the first exhibit.

 

“I now need to use a Spell of Concatenation to combine these strings.”

 

The Daemon proceeded to mutter under his breath in a language Willow didn’t understand. There was a puff of foul-smelling smoke and then the two strings on the floor disappeared and the letters reappeared as one word on the string above the exhibits window: “DEINORAPTOR”.

 

The black smoke inside the exhibit swirled violently and the pink letters faded. Spool stepped back from the window as the pink letters reappeared. ExhibitError : Deinoraptor is not defined.

 

“What happened?” Willow asked.

“The string is incorrect,” sighed Spool. “Did you give me the right strings?”

“Yes, you said 2 so I gave you the second string in the list.” She looked in the crate, the string “DEINO” was still in the second slot in the crate.

“Wait, count to ten.” Spool instructed.

Wth a puzzled look on her face Willow began  to count. “!, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…”

“Ah ha! You counted wrong.”

“Wrong?”

“Yes you started at 1?”
“Yes?”

“We always start at 0.”

“Do we?”

“Yes, everything in the museum is arranged beginning with zero. You used the lift to get here right?”

“Yes.”
“Well, what button did you press to go up one level?”

“Umm, One, to get to the first floor.”
“Exactly and what button would you press to go back down?”
“Zero.”

“Yes”, smiled Spool. “Zero for the zeroth floor. We always start from 0. So try the list again.”

This time Willow counted the slots inside the crate, starting from 0. This time the string in slot 2 read “BRONTO”.

“And the next list?”

Willow agaijn counted from 0 and this time the string in position 8 read “GNATHUS”.

She passed the two strings to Spool, who once gain lay they down on the floor and performed the Spell of Concatention. There was a puff of smoke and a flash of white light as the word BRONTOGNATHUS appeared on the string above the exhibits window. Willow watched in awe as the back smoke behind the glass began to fade. She stepped towards the window and then jumped back in fright as a dinosaur, with a large square head, filled with rows of sharp teeth suddenly appeared in front of her and roared a very loud, deafening roar.

“Ah Brontognathus,” sighed Spool. “Thunder Jaw. Deinoraptor didn’t work because we don’t have one of those in our collection. So what have you learnt today Willow?”

“The Brontognathus is scary?”

“No, about strings and lists…”

“Ah, strings are a series of characters and strings can be joined together. A list can be a collection of strings and to count the items in the list…”

“Or characters in a string, or floors in a building.”

“We start counting from 0.”

“Excellent, now let’s fix the rest of these strings.”

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A #CompSciAdventure – Part One : Strings

Here is the very first rough draft at my attempt to write a story to help explain some Computing concepts. My intention is to use this as a narrative to drive my gamified Year 6 scheme of work for next year. All feedback welcomed….

Willow Harmony Starkweather stood in the shadow of the giant skeleton staring up at the small skull, several metres above her head.

“Willow!”

Her grandfather’s gruff voice disturbed her daydreams.

“Come on, young lady. You’re not here to stand staring at the specimens, you’re here to work.”

She sighed under her breath and followed her grandfather.

“I need you to help Spires,” he said, his heavy boots echoing on the stone floor.

“What’s he done now?”

Spires, a Data Handling Daemon, was known throughout the museum for his extreme clumsiness.

“All of the display signs have been muddled up, and I need you to help him sort out the letters.”

Her grandfather suddenly stopped, turned and looked down at Willow with a puzzled look on his bearded face. He coughed before gesturing to the sign on the wall beside him.

“Oh,” she said looking up at the picture of a stickman. “I’ll go and find Spires.”

She backed away and after her grandfather had entered the toilets she turned and ran off back down the corridor towards the storeroom where all the signs were kept.

 

She opened the door to find Spires sat in the middle of the floor surrounded by lots of pieces of card, each with an individual letter printed on one side and a number chalked on the reverse. His face was red and he was looking frantic.


“What happened?” she asked.

“The strings have been cut,” Spires said holding up two frayed pieces of string.

“String?”
“Yes, There is a piece of string by every exhibit. These character cards are supposed to be hung from the string.”

“What are the knots for,” asked Willow.

“Ah, they are to stop the character cards slipping around too much. They divide the string into separate spaces for each character card.”

“So how can I help?”

“We need to organise all these letters into the names of the dinosaurs in the exhibits, but there must be hundreds of them, where to start?”

“What about with this one,” she said picking a card up at random. “It’s a T”

“No, that won’t do.”

“Why not?”

He gestured to the back of the card she was holding. Flipping it around she noticed a number 2 written in chalk on the card’s reverse.

“Each space on the string is numbered so that we know where to put the cards. That card goes into space number 2.”

“But couldn’t we just use it for….”

“No, that’s not how the system works,” he said sharply.

“Oh,” Willow looked around the pile of cards until she spotted the number one etched on the back of an R. “Here we go then.”

“No, no, no WIllow,” he sighed. “You really haven’t learnt much since you started working here have you?”

“I only started this morning”.

“That card goes second.”

“But it’s a one so surely it must go first.”

“No, zeroes go first, ones go second. We always start counting at 0.”

“That’s weird,” sighed Willow.

“Not really,” replied the Daemon. “Which floor is this?”

“Well, it appears to be marble.”

“No, not the floor. What floor of the museum is this?”
“Oh, I see. The ground floor.”

“Yes, so when you use the lift to go up to the next floor what button do you press?”

“One.”

“Exactly, so this is floor zero – the zeroth floor.”

“Zeroth?”

“Look around you, everything in the museum is counted in the same way, starting from zero.”

 

Willow looked down at the pile of cards on the floor, flipping some over with her foot until she spotted a zero scrawled on the back She picked it up to reveal an H.

“So this is the sign for a dinosaur whose name begins with H?”

Spires simply nodded.

“So what letter comes next?”

“It could be any of these cards with a 1 on the back,” sighed the Daemon.

Willow thought for a moment. “Not any card,” she said as she turned and ran off down the corridor.

“Oi, you’re supposed to be helping me,” cried Spires as she disappeared around the corner.

 

A few minutes later she returned carrying a large book.

“Right,” she said. “So first letter is H.”

Spires could now see that the book Willow was carrying was the Dinosaur Directory, an alphabetical listing of all the dinosaurs featured in the museum. Willow flicked through the pages until she reached the section titled “H”.

“So, the next letter can only be…” she started turning the pages, looking at the different dinosaur names. “An a, e, o, u or y.”

Spires started scrabbling on the floor, looking for any of those letters. After only a few moments he found an “a” with a 1 on the reverse. He held the card up.

“Ok,” Willow turned back a couple of pages.”Next letter must be d, g or p.”

 

They continued the process of finding character cards and then checking against the directory to see what the next possible letter could be until they had spelt out Hadrosaurus.

Spires gathered the cars up into a pile with the H[0] on top and an S[10] at the bottom. He then placed one of the knotted pieces of string on top of the pile, closed his eyes and muttered something under his breath in a language Willow didn’t recognise. There was a puff of foul-smelling, purple smoke that made Willow’s eyes water. When the smoke cleared she could see Spires grinning at her, nodding towards the pile. Willow stepped forward and gingerly picked up the pile of cards. They were now all attached to the string in the perfect order.

“You, see,” the daemon said smiling. “Without the numbers the magic wouldn’t know how to order the letters in the string.”


“Ah,” she said, trying to sound that she understood what was happening. “Come on, then. We have more strings to complete.”

Knowledge Organisers

Here is my first draft at putting together a Knowledge Organiser for my Year 4 Computing class.

Their #intergalactICT project will see them designing their own droids. Starting with an empty box they will decide upon which input and output devices their droid will have, followed by ports and storage devices.

The Knowledge Organiser will act as a point of reference for the children.

Y4_KO_1

Adventures in #Gamification: The Wheel of Fortune

As a reward the pupil who scores the most points in their class in any one week wins the chance to spin the Wheel of Fortune. For Year 7, and their Zoo Tycoon inspired gamified project in which they are earning points in order to “purchase” animals for their virtual zoos, their wheel of fortune features the following choices:

  • Myxamotosis – you lose all your rabbits
  • +10 points
  • Congratulations you have won a goldfish!
  • Escaped Wild Cat!! you lose one of your Big Cats.
  • +10 Team Bonus
  • Zoo Transfer – give someone else one of your most valuable animals
  • Great news – Baby!! If you had 2 of an animal you now have 3
  • Compare the Meerkats – Swap your Meerkat collection with someone else.

This happens at the very beginning of the lesson and is simply a mechanism to ensure all children arrive as promptly as possible – as well as being an added motivation to do well.

 

 

Adventures in #Gamification : Lifejackets

In video games, a “lifejacket” is a mechanism that enables weaker players to “keep afloat” – in other words, it offers all players the opportunity to still win the game. One well-known example of this is Bullet Bill in the Mario Kart series. When a player is transformed into Bullet Bill they are then able to move incredibly fast and as a result, can overtake many other players. This mechanism is used to keep all players engaged in the game as it means even if you have crashed off the track several times, you still have the opportunity of Bullet Bill rocketing you to the front.

I have introduced a simple “lifejacket” for my Year 7s to ensure that no-one gets left too far behind in the game. Quite simply, the child who scores the lowest number of points in any particular week receives a Double Up bonus for the following week – the intention being that this will motivate them to try harder the following week in order to maximise their points.

So far in the first weeks of introducing this mechanic, it has worked exactly as I had hoped, with children being motivated to try much harder in the subsequent lesson. Some children have said, “what if I deliberately score badly?”, but firstly, this would be incredibly hard to do deliberately and secondly, I award the scores and I would know if a child was deliberately trying to throw their points away.

I will keep you updated as this experiment progresses.

Adventures in #Gamification : Resources

civresourcesI am currently experimenting with gamification ideas with my Year 5 ICT classes. As part of their year-long #HereBeDragons project the children have created their own fictional country as part of the Mythical Land of Ict. As a result my gamification ideas have been influenced by world-building games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization.

In every lesson, the children earn Experience Points (XP) by demonstrating skills, knowledge and understanding as well as their attitude towards their learning. One of the game mechanics I plan on introducing next Half Term is the idea of buying and trading resources. I have created a list of 10 items that the children can purchase with their XP – the idea is that the first five minutes of the lesson will be Trading Time in which the children can spend the XP they earnt in the previous lesson. Hopefully, this will motivate the children to get to lesson on time (they move between classrooms to see specialist teachers like in a secondary school) but I am also hoping that the idea of trading will inspire collaboration between nations and I plan on introducing bonuses for children who offer “Aid” to less-developed countries.

The Mythical Land of Ict is split into three islands representing the three classes and each nation is affiliated to one of the four Houses (getting into Game of Thrones territory here) – as a result the children should hopefully want to make their island the most powerful and wealthy as well as working on behalf of their House. I will offer bonuses for Trading between islands and neighbouring countries etc.

The 10 items I have on my list are:

  1. Wood
  2. Stone
  3. Coal
  4. Wool
  5. Wheat
  6. Iron
  7. Cotton
  8. Silver
  9. Gold
  10. Diamond

The idea of introducing Resources means I can use these in different ways. For example, once a nation has acquired 5 units of wood they unlock the Apprentice Carpenter Citizen – after 10 units their carpenter is upgraded to Intermediate and after 15 to Master Carpenter.

Bonuses can also be built into lessons so children could earn extra units of Gold or Iron – or they could win an Alchemy Spell that allows them to turn any item into a unit of Gold.

What if they could then combine items to build other things in the style of a Minecraft crafting table or games such as Little Alchemy

Next Level – – Houses

Adventures in #Gamification : Player Attributes

In many computer games, the player’s character has a set of attributes that indicate how well the character will cope in certain situations. Below is an example from World of Warcraft:

wow_shadowless2

These attributes can then change during the game depending on how successful the player is at certain challenges or simply due to bonuses and power-ups they collect during the game.

Applying this Mechanic

I have been working on a list of Key Qualities we would expect an effective learner to be able to demonstrate. After much research and deliberation, I have narrowed this down to a list of sixteen qualities: eight of which refer to academic skills and the rest relate to social and personal qualities.

So each “player” in my “game” would have these eight academic qualities as their character attributes. These qualities are:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Imagination
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Resilience
  5. Diligence
  6. Logic
  7. Collaboration
  8. Reflection

Every Player starts the Game with all attributes set to 0. In each lesson (“Level”) of the Game they can claim one of the 8 bonuses (they have to be able to justify their claim and provide evidence if necessary – getting a pencil from someone else because you have forgotten yours is not being Resourceful). If the Gamemaster (me) accepts their claim they are awarded the Bonus and their score goes up. To tie in with other aspects of the game there are three levels of bonus (Apprentice, Intermediate and Master) worth 1, 2 or 3 XP respectively. This means that after each level the players attribute scores can increase.

They collect tokens each time they are awarded a bonus and once they have collected a certain amount of tokens for each attribute, or have completed a set of tokens then they will receive another reward.

Next Level – – Resources