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Intro to Computers: Elective Review

Intro to Computers is a good elective for 6th grade, here's why.

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Intro to Computers, or “INTRO TO COMP” as Schoology states, was my first 6th grade elective. This article is for those wondering what the class is before they take it or those who want an objective article on it. The elective is one of the few 6th-grade electives with computer skills involved.

Intro to Computer is an elective mainly focused on introducing 6th graders to simple computer activities, the parts of a Chromebook, and “programming” simple robots to accomplish basic tasks. The course lasts one semester and by the end, you should know relatively simple coding, which brings me to my next point.

At the start of the semester, you are supposed to finish these “Hour of Code” challenges. For those who don’t know, Hour of Code is a part of Code.org that asks students to do an hour of coding. These coding challenges are simple “Move the character” puzzles with a coding system that looks like Scratch (the old one). Later students have to code simple robots, using a coding system more complex than Code.org, but still pretty simple for middle school. Later in the year, they have more challenging coding challenges that use robots, but they don’t take place until near the end of the semester.

The robots students will be using are called Dash and Dot, a set of pre-built robots with a custom programming app that allows you to customize its actions. The programming challenges are mainly the same ones you would expect to see in Hour of Code, but with physical robots, you have to move instead of a character on the screen. The programming is still “drag and drop”, but it’s mainly to prepare you for the competition, which is quite challenging, even at an advanced level.

The Dash and Dot competition is a set of three challenges you have to complete with your team. The team that completes them the fastest wins the competition and moves on to state. I don’t remember what we had to do, but even if I did and I put that in the article, it wouldn’t help because the three challenges are picked for every semester so students don’t tell each other solutions, and maybe to keep it fresh for the teachers. The challenge is just a test of previous knowledge learned throughout the semester, so you don’t need to worry about extreme problem-solving.

Here are a few more things about the course. For 6th grade, it does not require any approval and is available to STEAM only. It is a one-semester elective so you will need another one-semester elective for the semester that you are not taking Intro to Computers. For the robot coding part near the end of the semester, it is not like Vex Robotics, in which you actually have to build the robot then program it. The robots are built for you in this course, due to it being an intro course. If you enjoy the robotics part, you can take an entirely separate Robotics elective for 7th grade.

I think this is a good computer elective for the 6th grade level. The programming is simple, but it is a good start if you want to try later computer electives in 7th or 8th grade. The only thing to know is that the coding isn’t what you would expect for advanced level, but is fine for a 6th-grade level or people just getting started.

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