Tech Tools & Helpful Hacks

Bring Coding To Your Classroom, TOMORROW

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December 08, 2016

Why should educators across all grade levels and subjects integrate coding computer sciences into the curriculum? That was the theme of my last blog. Now, let’s talk about other ways  educators can start integrating computer science education into their classrooms. For many, coding has been the answer, but this can be intimidating. Most of us never had any training in computer science in school, and it certainly wasn’t a topic covered in my multi-subject, pre-service program. Primary teachers that I work with tend to be especially unsure about what computer science might look like in their TK-3 classrooms.

For teachers new to computer sciences, there are so many fantastic resources available to introduce coding to their students.

So how do you get started?

  • The best advice? Jump right in and learn with your students! Even if you have no coding experience at all, start some lessons on Code.org with your class and learn together. Many of the Hour of Code lessons on Code.org also come with lesson plans that support educators in teaching relevant academic vocabulary and computer science concepts.

  • Use the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) 2016 Interim CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards to guide integration of computer science or coding instruction.

  • Check out the Code.org workshops for K-5 educators where you’ll learn the basics of computer science and how to use the Code.org lesson resources in your classroom.

  • Raspberry Pi is a U.K. based, non-profit organization dedicated to growing computer science education for teachers and students. Last year they expanded their “Picademy” computer science education program into the United States. Interested educators can apply to attend the program by visiting Raspberrypi.org.

There are other excellent benefits of incorporating coding and computer science into the classroom. It can encourage a more diverse population of students to embrace these subjects. Why does it matter? In 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up only 24.7% of the computer science and mathematics industry. A mere 8% of those women were black and 9% were Hispanic. Diversity in the computer science and mathematics industry is still severely lacking – and we as educators can help with these concrete tips:

  • Start early: The earlier that we get children interested in computer sciences, the more likely they are to continue in computer science courses in high school and college.

  • Make the learning relevant and cool: If we want to see more students interested in computer science topics, we need to make it relevant to their lives. How can we integrate not just coding, but digital making into our classrooms as a way for children to create and solve problems? Students can use tools like Makey Makeys, Arduinos, and Raspberry Pi to apply their coding skills and create!

  • Share diverse computer science role models: Computer science is not just for geeky white males, as is often portrayed by the media. The STEM world is made up of a diverse group of individuals who have done amazing things; people like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Hedy Lamarr, Mae Jemison, Margaret Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, Annie Easley, Ellen Ochoa, and many more.

  • Encourage perseverance: Encourage all students to learn some coding. Encourage perseverance when students get stuck and collaboration so that students can help each other learn. A growth mindset – the idea that anyone can learn anything with hard work) – is one of the most important tools for coding and life.

A Coding Success Story for a Third Grade Class
Last month, my work with a 3rd grade class was proof that students at all grade levels are ready for this type of learning. I partnered with the teacher to introduce her students to the idea of physical computing and how to build and program a “voting/photo booth” using Raspberry Pi computers and Scratch for programming. Students had minimal experience with block coding and no experience in electronics or computer sciences. By the end of our 3-week long unit, students were using terms like input/output, circuit, and GPIO; persevering through problem solving with their teams; iterating the design of their devices and debugging code until both operated correctly; discussing mathematical concepts like multiples, repeated addition and decimal fractions in context; and could explain the relationship between the code they had written and the functionality of the device they had built. More importantly, the students had a chance to create something, to engage in relevant learning, and to have fun at school. These 8-year-olds far surpassed our expectations. Now I’m excited to see what happens in two upcoming programming and computer science projects with a TK (transitional kindergarten) class and a 2nd grade class!

Extra Tools and Resources for Teaching Coding

Check out the many resources available for educators to use to bring coding into the classroom, even with little coding knowledge themselves. Here are just a few of my favorites:

After seven years of teaching in grades K-5, Amanda is currently a Math and Technology Integration Coach. She is passionate about providing innovative learning opportunities for students on a daily basis and is enthusiastic about the power of technology in education. Her curriculum planning and delivery is supported by the use of technology as a tool to differentiate instruction and to access student engagement and critical thinking skills.

Amanda Haughs

Amanda Haughs Elementary Math & Technology Integration Coach Twitter: mshaughs

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