Lesson plan

Troubleshooting

In this lesson, students will learn the term "troubleshooting" and practise solving problems using both tangible and virtual tools.
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Students will practise solving problems or "troubleshooting" by playing an educational coding game.

(5 minutes)
  • Prepare in advance a tangled, knotted mess of string. Show students the string and ask, "How will I ever untangle this string?"
  • Invite students to offer suggestions or try working on the knots.
  • Demonstrate how untangling a difficult knot often takes patience and slow, steady progress. Some strategies work well,while others don't.
  • Explain that this type of problem-solving is sometimes called "troubleshooting." Computer programmers are always troubleshooting when they create code and write algorithms. Sometimes the code works right away, but sometimes it needs to be fixed or improved.
(5 minutes)
  • Divide students into pairs and pass out devices.
  • Show students how to turn on the devices and open the LightBot app.
(5 minutes)
  • Once the app is open, ask students to describe what they see: On the left will be a little robot and some square tiles that form a path. On the right, a workspace where the user builds the algorithm. Near the bottom of the screen we see the available blocks of code. Each block is a command represented by a symbol or icon, such as an arrow or a lightbulb.
  • Ask students, "What do you think you'll need to do to make the robot move to the end of the path and light up?"
  • Invite students to take turns solving the puzzle.
(20 minutes)
  • Invite the pairs of students to take turns using the device until both students have had a chance to try each level.
  • Be sure to pause at some point and draw students' attention to the opportunities for troubleshooting when the robot does not successfully complete the puzzle. Ask students, "What troubleshooting strategies can you try now?"
  • If your students have not shared a device before, they will need some ground rules for how to take turns.

Enrichment

  • Students who have previous experience with LightBot or similar games can be challenged to begin at one of the higher levels. They can also try to create their own LightBot puzzles on paper, drawing the LightBot path as well as the sequence of code required to solve the puzzle.

Support

  • For students who have difficulty breaking the code down into individual steps, invite them to stand up and act out the movements of the LightBot with their own bodies.
(5 minutes)
  • Circulate the room and observe each pair of students working together.
  • Measure student success by whether or not each student is able to complete at least one level of the game.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to reflect on their experience troubleshooting.
  • Discuss: How did you troubleshoot? What strategies did you use to solve the problem or fix your mistakes?
  • Invite peer to peer feedback by asking, “How did your partner help you learn?”

Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s centre for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Kindergarten of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.

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