Use Algorithms and Flowcharts
Here are three learning activities that you can use in your classroom to demonstrate writing algorithms and drawing flowcharts.
They are designed to intersperse throughout your programming course. Each activity is designed to help the students learn to write precise instructions as well as to understand procedural programming. These activities will give the student first-hand experience on why steps have to be done in a specific order.
The questions at the end of each activity highlight important business concepts such as:
-- collaborative problem-solving
-- User eXperience (UX)
-- Usability testing
-- Object-oriented programming (OOP)
-- The importance of visualizing a project before you begin to code.What is an algorithm? What is a flowchart?
Use this activity at the beginning of the semester to introduce the concepts of writing algorithms and visualizing program flow using flowcharts.
The simile of a chocolate chip cookie recipe as an algorithm is intentional in order to catch the students imagination. Everyone loves the thought of chocolate chip cookies.
One of the examples describes the binary search. You can re-visit this summary page again, later in the course, when you introduce the different types of sorting.
1) Make a Peanut & Jelly Sandwich
This is a fun classroom activity that will get your students thinking about how precise they have to be when working with computers. The awareness happens as soon as you do some usability testing in front of the class and the knife hits the safety seal covering the top of the jar. (A great opportunity to introduce the if/else statement.)
And of course, everyone gets to eat the "program" after it is finished.
This also works well making root beer floats, but that involves a lot more prep work and expense.
2) Tie Your Shoes
This is an excellent activity for online learners. By using Google docs (or any other collaborative text environment) and keeping the teams small, the students not only experiences writing algorithms but also how to work together. For example, they will learn to use the line-through formatting instead of deleting text. This not only preserves ideas but prevents people's feelings from being hurt.
At the end of the activity students will have some experience with online collaboration as well as know how to tie their shows with a strong knot. If they aren't familiar with TED videos, then this can be their first introduction to this fascinating web site.
3) Use This Window Washing Trick
Use this activity as an introduction to looping concepts. I learned this window-washing trick from Leanne DeWitt, one of my favorite college custodians. The students will learn a time-saving trick for cleaning windows as well as how different tools meet different needs (Showing looping using a written algorithm is clumsy and frustrating when compared to a tool such as an flowchart.)
Notice that you don't need an actual window. Using a sheet of paper is all that is needed to prove that the process the student comes up with is valid and useable. The same concept is used by professional programmers when they create a wireframe demonstration before they begin coding.
Multiple file formats included.
- Have your students view this activity on their iPads. Your downloaded zip file includes formats for PDF, ePub, and mobi (Kindle).
Use these Learning Activities as part of your Introduction to Programming courses.
*** CONTENTS ***
- Learning Objectives
- What is an Algorithm?
- What is a Flowchart?
- Make a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
- Tie Your Shoes
- Use This Window Washing Trick
These learning activities were written by Peter K. Johnson from Web Explorations. It is based on 14-years of teaching web development and programming languages developed for both online and face-to-face learning. Web Explorations
specializes in course development.