The Challenging Classroom!

Nicky Ringland
Aug 5 · 4 min read

The NCSS Challenge 2019 is here again, which means you and your students can join thousands of others learning to solve problems with code!

Yes. This is exactly how excited you should be feeling right now

Over five weeks, your students will be Challenged (see what we did there? 😉) to solve problems with code. They’ll learn how to do so by working through our interactive notes, and if they have questions or get stuck, they can ask our friendly tutors for help!

There are lots of different streams for students of all experience levels, from coding first-timer to old hat. You can read more about which stream is right for your students here, and find out how each stream aligns to the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum. Students can swap between streams, or do more than one!

We have 4 streams: Newbies, Beginners (Blockly and Python), Intermediate and Advanced.

1. Assign your students

Once you’ve figured out which stream you want your students to do, you can assign it in the Teacher Dashboard. Remember, you can assign different streams on a per student basis, so the whole class doesn’t have to be doing the same thing.

Select students on your Teacher Dashboard.
Click the Assign drop down box and select the stream you want them to do.
When the student next logs in, they will see the assigned stream at the top of their Launchpad.

This might be a handy time to mention that there are two versions of the Beginners Challenge, one in Blockly (block-based coding) and one in regular Python, so your students can work on the same problems, but allow for a bit of flexibility in prior experience.

2. Check how your students are going!

You can see how your students are going on the Teacher Dashboard. Please encourage them to message the tutors if they have questions. Our tutors won’t just tell students the answers, but will help them spot errors, and gently encourage them in the right direction. Students can also message the tutors during class time! (Though if the whole class messages at once, it can sometimes take a little bit to get a response!)

See your students’ progress in different courses. Green indicates questions that have been solved before the deadline, orange is attempted but not solved yet and blue is questions solved after the deadline.

3. Stickybeak on their tutor chats

Want to see how much help students are getting? You can see your students’ conversations with the tutors.

Conversation between a student and tutor. You and the tutor can see the code a student has written, how many attempts they have made and if they have completed the previous problems.

4. Check out the Teacher’s Notes

All verified teachers have access to the Teacher’s notes for the NCSS Challenge. These will typically include the solution to the problem, along with tips about how students might struggle.

You can find the teacher notes at the top of any problem.

5. Have a go yourself!

The NCSS Challenge questions are designed to be fun to answer! So why not have a go yourself!

Remember, you can use our friendly tutor army too! And they’ll even be more generous with the hints and explanations — but only if you ask them to be!

6. Challenge in the Classroom

There’s no wrong way to run the NCSS Challenge in the Classroom. Some teachers work through the notes on the projector, then have students independently answer questions.

In the Newbies and Beginners streams, questions are paired. That is, the same concept is covered in two back to back questions. Some teachers like solving the first question together as a class, then having students answer the second question independently, while also letting any eager beavers continue ahead, or work through a higher stream.

7. How to assess the NCSS Challenge?

Again, there’s no wrong way to use the NCSS Challenge in the classroom. Some teachers download student marks and use them directly as assessment marks, while others get students to fill out a journal (or blog!) covering reflections on what they’ve learned.

Another option is to assign some questions as ‘group work’ — which would work particularly well this year, if you have students participating in the Beginners stream, towards the end of the Challenge, you could get students to work together to solve some of the earlier Intermediate questions which are a bit more complicated, even if they don’t involve more concepts!

Have a tip on how you run the NCSS Challenge in your classroom? Share it on Twitter with the hashtag #NCSSChallenge and tag @groklearning and @auscompacademy

Nicky Ringland

Written by

Grok Learning

Articles about coding by the team at Grok Learning & teacher friends.

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