Mine’s a Mocha

This is a online learning activity designed to introduce some basic concepts of computing such as algorithms and selection through an everyday task.  Making coffee will be used as the principle example.


Early secondary/middle school teachers (UK Key stage 3, US Middle School or early Junior High, covering children aged 11-13) who are currently teaching general ICT and are moving into a more computing/programming oriented curriculum.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the application of computing terminology to everyday tasks
  2. Identify the need for generalisation or abstraction in programming


Access to an online learning space and a tutor

Access to audience appropriate definitions of key terms such as:

  • Algorithm
  • Sequence
  • Selection
  • Iteration
  • Abstraction?

Explicit definitions could be provided by the tutor, or they could provide links to existing ones.


  1. Briefing: Synchronous/podcast  tutor briefing to introduce task and provide access to resources.
  2. Individual work: Students work off-line to
    1. create their own written instructions for making coffee.  Apart from being text based, there are no restrictions on format, vocabulary used etc
    2. Identify where sequence, selection and iteration occur within their algorithm
  3. Sharing: All students share their coffee instructions and in round robin format compare and feedback on differences between their own and one other submission
  4. Pair work: Working in pairs, students agree a single algorithm which demonstrates sequencing, selection and iteration, and mark up their instructions to show where they occur.
    It will be necessary to agree an appropriate level of abstraction for operations in order to create an agreed algorithm.  For example, are there separate steps for fill kettle (or even turning tap on and off), switch on etc, or a single one for boil water.Resulting single algorithm to be posted back to collaborative working space
  5. Round up:  tutor lead discussion to point out commonalities or interesting differences.  Discussion should be directed to include consideration of:
    1. Parameterisation based on known preferences, e.g. coffee for me or Jo, or type of coffee required, e.g. black, sweet, decaff
    2. Generalisation to multiple cups of coffee, or to other hot beverages, e.g. tea, hot chocolate, soup
  6. Looking forward: encourage student to:
    1. review definitions of terminology and/or share other ones they have found
    2. share ideas of more age appropriate example tasks that might be used in a classroom context

Areas for development

Would need to put more thought into:

  • timings, e.g. task 1 could be 5 mins brief, 5 mins Q&A max if synchronous, but not sure about rest.  Would depend on context of use for the activity
  • source of definitions to use
  • online platform for collaboration/discussion
  • collation of results for task 4


… to my TEL blogging space. Started to supported participation in ALT’s ocTEL spring 2014 course and a place to dump thoughts, it may persist.

But at present there is minimal focus on (graphic/affective) design for the blog itself.