We've been talking sorting and searching in our teacher certification program and today was all about the merge sort. One of the strategies we use when teaching it in person involves sorting a deck of cards by Tom Sawyering it with the class. It's fun and it's effective but you can't do it over Zoom. What to do? We didn't want to just jump into the nuts and bolts of merge sort. We could - we've got a great group of teachers who could handle it but we're not just talking about content in the program we're also talking about pedagogy.
How could we adapt a divide and conquer algorithm where we split a deck of cards and pass it out to the class to a remote environment.
Here's what we came up with.
I started with a story about how I pitched Hunter about having a party with this first cohort when they all earn their NY State CS Teaching Certificates (assuming we could have a party in person). They said yes but to keep costs down I had to get them a list of possible restaurants to order from sorted by lowest price. We decided to use Chinese restaurants and the price of pork dumplings.
I had a long list and was going to have to go to the seamless page for each one and get the price and then sort them. Not fun.
Since I'm running the program but have two instructors - JonAlf and Topher working with me, we decided I could "volunteer" each to do half the list. They weren't happy so they looked for Teaching Assistants to pawn the work off on but having none went to the students. We continued with the split until a bunch of students each had to look up one and only one restaurant to find the price of the pork. We then passed the restaurants and prices back up the chain and voila - merge sort. .
We basically were able to replicate the in class card sorting experience with something that we could do over Zoom. It went over pretty well.
We're going to talk more about what we did and why and the idea of actively engaging students in different ways over virtual conference technologies tomorrow.
It was all pretty cool.