Make Tasks in the age of YouTube Answers

As you may know, some people have posted videos walking students through the Make Tasks (as well as other tasks) in the curriculum. While Make Tasks aren’t supposed to be summative in nature, they should be an opportunity to help students practice thinking about building a program from scratch… copying and pasting from a video doesn’t quite do that.

When talking with a CSTA-MN buddy here in MN, we wanted to brainstorm ways to keep the focus on building student thinking skills. Here’s a few ideas of what we came up with, I thought I would share them here too.

  1. Have students submit a video explaining how a section of their code works in their own words and describing one bug that they encountered while doing the program. Keep the short - only 2-3 minutes long and similar to the Create Task. The teacher then only grades the videos (not the code).

  2. Add additional features to the Make Tasks. There’s a few different ways to do this. The lowest level lift is to simply TELL students what you want the app to do or look like at the end. So for the photo liker app, you might add a “love” or “haha” button that a user could click too. Or you could have a spot for the total number of “dislikes” and the total number of “likes” instead of one spot for a cumulative number of likes. Alternatively, the teacher could record a video showing the “updated” Make task functioning and voices over what the app does and what its inputs and outputs are.

  3. Create your own Makes across the board. This is certainly the most work for individual teachers, but is still an option.

These were some of the ideas we came up with together. I ended up going a little more of the “route 2 option”. I actually helped students put in some of the functionality together as a class (in a virtual synchronous classroom). This meant me talking through my thinking and asking myself questions (which then students answered, think of it as a modified socratic method a bit). I would do part of the code and then put students in breakout rooms to finish smaller chunks. Doing this semi-together, meant that students had more time to do an “extension”. I gave them a few ideas for an extension, but mostly let them pick an extension to do. I know not everyone is able to have their students synchronously at this point, but it worked out pretty well. It also allowed students to be creative past the initial task. Also, just a little disclaimer while I am currently working at Code.org, I am also teaching at the moment, so this post is more from a personal perspective than it is from a “Code.org official” perspective.

I am wondering what other teachers are doing to support student thinking during the Make Tasks. Has anyone used the videos as a tool in class? If so, how do you ensure students are getting practice doing their own thinking too?

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Some scientists believe the evolution of two gendered species was a solution to the problem of parasites and germs. Parasites and germs tend to be species specific. But with sex based reproduction each new generation is a slightly different species from the parents. As teachers, you have probably already noticed.

This concept is essentially your 2 and 3 options above since we are dealing with a parasite. You change the make tasks slightly each time you get to it. The parasite can not deal with individualized local changes.

Make no mistake, this is a parasite. He makes money from Youtube views. He leverages all the money and infrastructure investment of code.org to put money into his own pocket. He could make instruction videos using a different though similar make task, but doesn’t. I have seen some defend these videos on the basis of offering some instruction. They didn’t have to be a source of cheating.

So, what do we do? I like option 3, but with code.org support. What if we had 3 different make tasks for each lesson? One of those 3 make tasks could only be assigned by a verified teacher account for a class. And once chosen they could never be changed.

What I am proposing is we make the parasite choose one of the 3 make tasks to spoil. We can then choose from the other 2 for our classrooms.

This would be a huge investment. But it might be worth it if teachers are seeing this as a problem. I am not seeing this as a problem in my classroom right now. I feel guilty that I didn’t do well enough teaching units 1 and 2 for my students to be properly prepared to cheat on unit 5.

I would also recommend this community takes up some of the burden of creating different make tasks. Have some way to submit alternative tasks and make it a group project. Unfortunately, this means there is a huge infrastructure change to code.org that can only be taken on by the Ruby development team. This would be something for next year or even the year after.