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Most engaging way for students to be introduced to the fundamentals of Computer Science

We had great success with Swift Playgrounds for iPad. The wonderful animations and game-like interface really hid the true force behind the product - it is teaching the fundamentals of Computer Science and computational thinking. The big ideas like abstraction, decomposing problems into subproblems, loops, conditional code, are being introduced and practiced while the students work on interesting puzzles. The drive to solve the puzzles can sometimes be too intense for the students, however and they can sometimes slip into sloppy programming practices just to get the puzzle done instead of doing more rigorous thinking about more elegant strategies. Engagement that is too high is not a typical problem to have and it is easily remedied by intervening with appropriate feedback. We found that if we had the students watch a video discussion at http://buildingrainbows.com of an alternate, more elegant, solution and then recreating their own, more elegant solution days later, the students adopted their own meta challenges of creating their own elegant solutions the first time through, instead of just powering through the challenges to completion. In all, Swift Playgrounds is a fantastic introduction into Computer Science and a wonderful use of technology in the classroom. Highly recommended.
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