Lesson 8: Apps and Problem Solving

Unplugged

Overview

This lesson covers the input and output aspects of computers in a context that is relevant and familiar to students: apps. In pairs, students will evaluate various web applications to analyze the specific problems that they were designed to solve, the inputs that they need to work, as well as the outputs they provide to users. The class will conclude with observations of these apps as well as a teacher led discussion about the impact of apps on society.

Purpose

In Chapter 1 of this unit, students learned the problem solving process. In chapter 2, students learned how computers solve problems. Students began with broadening their understanding of what a computer is, and in subsequent lessons, engaged in activities which allowed them to experience problem solving within the computer model. At this point, students know that computers are information processing machines that can do four things with information: input, output, store, and process. In this final lesson before the unit project, students choose between various types of input that may be needed to solve a particular problem and describe the processing and storage that a computer would do to produce the desired output. This should prepare them to eventually design their own app to address a problem and explain how that app would work.

Agenda

Warm Up (5 min)

Activity (40 min)

Wrap Up (10 min)

Extension Activities

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the information that an app uses as input or produces as output
  • Identify the information an app would need to be provided as input in order to produce a given piece of functionality (output)

Preparation

Links

For the Teacher

For the Students

Support

Report a Bug

  • Is there an appropriate amount and variety of input data given to the students?
  • Were students able to come up with good improvements to the clothing app? What improvements did they come up with?

Teaching Guide

Warm Up (5 min)

Goal: Help students apply their model of how a computer works to an app intended to solve a particular problem.

Solving Problems with Computers

Review: Quickly review the input, storage, processing, and output model of a computer

Display: Display the photo of the translation app in Stage 8 Level 2 (or direct students to log into the Code Studio level).

Discussion Goal

Students should understand that there are different types of input to a computer, which may be appropriate for different types of programs. They also may see that some information (English-Spanish dictionary) can either be stored on the computer itself, or accessed over the Internet as input. Students should be able to identify the camera image (Spanish text) as input, the translation as processing, and the display screen image (English text) as output. They should also see that a person would use essentially the same methods and resources to complete the task.

Discuss: Students discuss the prompts: “How does this piece of software input, store, process, and output information?” If a human were to do the same task, how would it be the same or different from how the computer does it?

Prompt: What other types of input can a smartphone use?

Write the student responses on the board. It's not necessary that students produce every possible type of input, but make sure that they understand that input can come from the Internet (such as a list of restaurants in the area), from direct user input (such as pressing a button or filling in a form), and from phone sensors (such as the GPS or gyroscope).

Activity (40 min)

App Exploration

Remarks

Today you’ll be working in groups to figure out what sorts of inputs a computer (in this case, a smartphone) would need to solve various problems. You’ll be acting as the software in processing the information you get from the inputs, and determining the output that you want to communicate to the user, just as the translation software processed the Spanish text and displayed the English text as output to the user.

Group: Put students in groups of 2-3

Distribute: App Exploration - Activity Guide

Transition: Send students to Code Studio Lesson 8, if they were not already there for the warm up.

Guided Practice

Review the instructions for Challenge 1 (in Level 3 of the Lesson).

Remarks

Let’s do one together. Everyone go to the third bubble in the stage, called “Challenge 1”, which goes along with the “Challenge 1” on your worksheet. Think about the problem that your app is intended to solve. What information does it need to solve that problem? Now, look at the various places your phone can get input and write down what information it needs to know to work. Once you have all the information you need, decide what output the software will produce.

Discussion Goal

Students should note that the input for the original app and improved app were the same. All that changed between them was the processing done on that input.

Circulate: Support students as they work in pairs through the first challenge, including the extension question. If students finish a challenge early, encourage them to think of other improvements they could make to the app.

Discuss: What did this app need to know, and what was the output to the user? What about the improved app? Were there any changes to the input you needed? What needed to change about the program?

Circulate: Allow students to work on Challenge 2, supporting them as they complete both the initial challenge and the improved app.

Share: For the last challenge, what inputs did you identify? What sort of processing did you need to do on the information to determine the output? What extra inputs did you need for the improved version?

Prompt: For these two challenges, you’ve used inputs, outputs, and processing, but so far you haven’t stored any of your information. Is there any information that you think your phone should store? What types of information are generally stored on a smartphone?

Share: Allow students to share out their responses, and write them on the board.

Direct students to Challenge 3.

Circulate: Support students as they complete the last two challenges.

Wrap Up (10 min)

Sharing Findings

Discussion Goal

As students compare answers, they should note that there are many different ways to solve these problems, and that while the success criteria for the first two challenges were very clear, the last two challenges were more open ended. Students should realize that their may be more than one appropriate output for the apps.

Discuss: Students share their answers to the questions, and compare the differences between them.

Remarks

Most of the apps that we rely on in everyday life, ones that give us directions or recommend restaurants in the area, fairly open ended. That means that there are many different outputs that could be considered correct, and many different ways that the apps could use the inputs they have available to them.

Prompt: Now, take a few minutes to think of an app that you think is useful, then imagine a way that it could be improved. Share your thoughts with your elbow partner, and work together to think of what extra input you might need to make those improvements work.

Remarks

You'll have a chance to try out some of your ideas as we look to our unit project in which you will create a prototype of an app.

Extension Activities

App Store Exploration

Have students visit an app store like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Instruct them to find a non-gaming app and conduct the same analysis as in the activity guide (problem it solves, information it needs, output it provides to the user).

View on Code Studio

Problem Solving - Computers and Logic: Lesson 8 - Processing with Apps

Background

In this lesson you will explore the ways apps process different kinds of information in order to solve problems.

Resources

View on Code Studio

Student Instructions

Input / Output

Look at the picture below.

Discussion Questions

  • What problem does this piece of software address?

  • What information is input to the smartphone?

  • What information is stored in the smartphone?
  • What information is processed by the smartphone?
  • What information is output by the smartphone?

  • What other types of input are available to the smartphone?

View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

Students should note that the app only needs two pieces of information to work: the current date and the date of Halloween. The current date, in this activity, comes from the clock, but students may note that it's possible to get the date from the Internet as well. The date of Halloween, in this activity, comes from the Internet, but students may note that this information could also be stored in the phone, because it doesn't change between uses of the app.

For the improved version of the app, the inputs are the same (current date and the date of Halloween), but the students must process the information differently. Rather than simply check whether the two dates are the same, students will need to calculate the numbers of days between them.

Student Instructions

Challenge 1

This piece of software tells you whether or not it's Halloween.

Look at the possible information that you can input to your app, and decide which ones your app needs to work. Remember, you can use the phone to get information that is specific to the user, and use the Internet to get general information about the world.

Once you have the information that you need as input, decide what your app will output.

Input from Phone Sensors

Sensor Input Information
Date (Clock) September 5
Location (GPS) N 41° 15' 1" ; W 101° 18' 32"
Light Sensor Very bright
Motion Sensor Not moving

User Input

User Prompt User Information
Birthday January 7
Favorite Holiday St. Patrick's Day
Favorite Flavor of Ice Cream Neopolitan

Input from the Internet

Request Information
The Date of Halloween October 31
The Temperature Anywhere in the World Shanghai: 77F
Adelaide: 54F
Paris: 75F
Cairo: 79F
Buenos Aires: 52F
Boston: 66F
Vancouver: 63F
Guam: 84F
The Most Popular Song This Week "Closer"
View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

For the initial app, the inputs are the location of the phone (from the GPS) and the locations of schools in the area (from the Internet). Note that students do not need a map because the process is only to check whether there is a match in location. At this point, the output is a command to turn the ringer off, because the phone is located at a school.

For the improved app, students should also take in the noise level from the microphone and the movement from the accelerometer. At this point, the output is to leave the ringer on, because the noise and movement levels indicate that the user is not in class.

Students may also suggest that the phone use time of day, calendar, and bell schedule to determine whether class is in session at the time. These are all good ideas for how to improve this app.

Student Instructions

Challenge 2

This app addresses the problem of someone's cell phone ringing in class. It should be able to figure out when the phone is at a school, and turn the ringer off during that time, but turn it back on when the user leaves school.

Look at the possible information that you can input to your app, and decide which ones your app needs to work. Remember, you can use the phone to get information that is specific to the user, and use the Internet to get general information about the world.

Once you have the information that you need as input, decide what your app will output.

Input from Phone Sensors

Sensor Input Information
Microphone: There is a lot of talking in the environment
GPS Location N 41° 15' 1" ; W 101° 18' 32"
Motion Sensor The phone is moving quickly
Camera The image from the camera is all black

User Input

User Prompt User Information
Name Arik
School Mascot Tiger
Grade Level 8th grade
Favorite Class Science

Input from the Internet

Request Information
Locations of Schools in the Area
3rd Street Elementary School: N 41° 14' 56" ; W 101° 18' 2"
Edison Middle School: N 41° 15' 1" ; W 101° 18' 32"
City High School: N 41° 15' 54" ; W 101° 19' 3"
List of Major Holidays
New Year's Day
Martin Luther King Day
President's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving
Christmas
The Temperature Anywhere in the World Shanghai: 77F
Adelaide: 54F
Paris: 75F
Cairo: 79F
Buenos Aires: 52F
Boston: 66F
Vancouver: 63F
Guam: 84F
Phone Numbers of Schools in the Area
3rd Street Elementary School: 123-123-1234
Edison Middle School: 123-123-4321
City High School: 123-123-7890
View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

In the initial app, the inputs are the weather report and the planned activities for the day.

For the improved app, there is no "correct" answer, and students may choose to make any reasonable improvement. For example, the app may remind the user to take a change of clothes for an activity later in the day. The app could also take into account holidays, or school dress code requirements.

Student Instructions

Challenge 3

This app helps the user figure out what to wear in the morning.

Look at the possible information that you can input to your app, and decide which ones your app needs to work.

Once you have the information that you need as input, decide what your app will output.

Input from Phone Sensors

Sensor Input Information
Microphone: The environment is quiet
GPS Location N 41° 15' 1" ; W 101° 18' 32"
Motion Sensor The phone is not moving
Camera The image from the camera is all black

User Input

User Prompt User Information
Name Arik
Grade Level 8th grade
Favorite Color Orange
Outfits Sunglasses, Orange T-Shirt, Red Shorts, Sandals
White Polo Shirt, Khaki Slacks, Dress Shoes
Knit Cap, Scarf, Red Sweater, Jeans, Boots
Orange T-Shirt, Jeans, Sneakers
Planned Activities for the Day
Field trip to Power Station
Drama Club
Dinner with Grandparents

Input from the Internet

Request Information
List of Major Holidays
New Year's Day
Martin Luther King Day
President's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving
Christmas
The Temperature Anywhere in the World
Guam: 84F
Shanghai: 77F
Adelaide: 54F
Paris: 75F
Cairo: 79F
Buenos Aires: 52F
Boston: 66F
Vancouver: 63F
The Time Anywhere in the World
Guam: 7:17 AM
Shanghai: 5:17 AM
Adelaide: 6:47 AM
Paris: 11:17 PM
Cairo: 11:17 PM
Buenos Aires: 6:17 PM
Boston: 5:17 PM
Vancouver: 2:17 PM
List of Top Tourist Attractions
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
The Zocalo, Mexico City
Times Square, New York City
Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo
Niagara Falls
Forbidden City, Beijing
List of Local Restaurants
Skyline Diner
The Sizzling Griddle
Grandma's Kitchen
Machos Tacos
Pizzazilla
Local Weather Report
Sunny, 45° F
View on Code Studio

Teaching Tip

Students have a variety of "correct" inputs for this app. They may consider the user's favorite books, television shows, and movies; the reviews for a movie; the age of the user; and the user's location.

Here are some factors students may want to consider in choosing a movie for the user.

  • Since Then is showing close to the user and has good reviews, but the user doesn't appear to enjoy comedies very much.
  • Mills is showing close to the user and has good reviews. It is also based on one of the user's favorite books. However, it is rated R, so the user may not be old enough to see it.
  • The Wait is showing close to the user and is in a genre that the user enjoys (Mystery), but is has bad reviews.
  • Cargo is in a genre that the user enjoys, but only has okay reviews.
  • The Watch 2 is the sequel to one of the user's favorite movies, but it is not showing close to the user.

Student Instructions

Challenge 4

This piece of software helps the user decide what movie to go to.

Look at the possible information that you can input to your app, and decide which ones your app needs to work. Remember, you can use the phone to get information that is specific to the user, and use the Internet to get general information about the world.

Once you have the information that you need as input, decide what your app will output.

Input from Phone Sensors

Sensor Input Information
Microphone: There is a lot of talking in the environment
GPS Location N 41° 15' 1" ; W 101° 18' 32"
Motion Sensor The phone is moving quickly
Camera The image from the camera is all black

User Input

User Prompt User Information
Name Taylor
School Mascot Tiger
Grade Level 8th grade
Favorite TV Shows
The Secret Town (Mystery)
100 Years (Drama)
Favorite Books
Whistler (Mystery)
Mills (Drama)
Favorite Movies
The Watch (Action)
Further (Mystery)
The Last Night (Drama)

Input from the Internet

Information Type Information
List of Major Holidays
New Year's Day
Martin Luther King Day
President's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving
Christmas
The Temperature Anywhere in the World
Guam: 84F
Shanghai: 77F
Adelaide: 54F
Paris: 75F
Cairo: 79F
Buenos Aires: 52F
Boston: 66F
Vancouver: 63F
Movie Reviews
Since Then: 4/5 "Hilarious!"
Mills: 5/5 "Even better than the book!"
The Wait: 2/5 "Boring and predicatable."
Cargo: 3/5 "Exciting, but not much more."
The Watch 2: 3/5 "If you loved the first one, you'll want to see this."
Movie Locations
Central Cinemas: Since Then (PG - Comedy), Mills (R - Drama), The Wait (PG - Mystery), Cargo (Action)
Midtown 5: The Watch 2 (PG - Action), Since Then (PG - Comedy), Mills (R - Drama)
Highlights 8: The Wait (PG - Mystery), Cargo (Action), Since Then (PG - Comedy), Mills (R - Drama)
Time Anywhere in the World
Guam: 7:17 AM
Shanghai: 5:17 AM
Adelaide: 6:47 AM
Paris: 11:17 PM
Cairo: 11:17 PM
Buenos Aires: 6:17 PM
Boston: 5:17 PM
Vancouver: 2:17 PM
Cinema Locations
Central Cinemas: N 41° 15' 15" ; W 101° 18' 20"
Midtown 15: N 41° 10' 17" ; W 101° 12' 2"
Highlights 8: N 41° 20' 41" ; W 101° 20' 50"
Restaurants
Skyline Diner
The Sizzling Griddle
Grandma's Kitchen
Machos Tacos
Pizzazilla

Standards Alignment

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