Posted in Analogies/Metaphors, Instructional Tips, Technology

Learn How to Code to Learn How to Think

Why the pressure to have our students coding all of a sudden? It’s not like everything that they do uses computers, right…right?

Wrong. Basically every recreation and professional occupation now uses computer programming in some way. The old emphasis on teaching simple machines is now evolving to into complex machines. This is coming to us in the form of ‘code,’ an increasingly popular term we are seeing at the elementary level.

We are doing our students a disservice if we are not introducing them to computer science skills at an early age! We must not limit their opportunities based on our lack of knowledge and skills.

Elementary students of all ages can learn to code and develop computer science skills. The resources are available and fun for students. Educators are running out of excuses. We owe our students a future where they will have the necessary skills to change the world. There is plenty of opportunity.

“Over the next 10 years, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science and only 400,000 grads qualified for those jobs. That’s a shortage of a million people.”       ‘Code Stars’ – Short Film

Consider the gender gap in computer science. 25% of all computer-related occupations in America are filled by women.

“Only 0.4% of college freshmen women say the intend to major in computer science.” (I Am Woman, Watch Me Hack, New York Times Magazine)

In the recent State of the Union Address, President Obama discussed the importance and commitment to providing students with digital learning and developing computer science skills.

LEARNING TO THINK

We need to use use coding to teach students to learn to think. Computer science skills provide an avenue of learning that is hands on, collaborative, fun, and exciting.

Students can make mistakes an a safe environment and learn from those mistakes. In fact, they can and should make as many mistakes as they can! Try. Mistake. Learn. Try. Mistake. Learn. Try. Mistake. Learn……you get it.

Computer science is the now, not the future. Everything that we do in our society involves computer programming.

In education, the push for more personalized digital content that adapts to the progress of the student is here now. 3rd graders in Virginia will be tested for the first time using adaptive testing on the state math exams at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Students now in all grade levels use online programs in reading and math that change the types and levels of problems and passages based on the progress of the students. Do you know how these work?

People and especially young want to create. There is a innate desire to build. It taps into the creative side of our brain and emotions. It is stimulating and reinvigorating to see a creation come to life.

But don’t take my word for it. Code.org made a great video explaining the connections to students and schools with coding and computer science. This is also great to show your students:

WHAT IS CODING?

Coding is computer programming. It is a set of instructions that directs a computer to perform specific operations. Like a recipe, each set of directions can be broken down into mini-programs. These mini-programs have been turned into “drag-and-drop” scripts for teaching the beginning of coding.

Decide on specific types of operations, drag them over, and link them together to create a sequence of events. Each type of operation is already programmed ahead of time. Hit play and watch your creation take life. These objects can also be used as buttons or characters in games. These programs can also make robots perform tasks.

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AT ASHLAND ELEMENTARY #ASHLANDSOAR

At Ashland, we started last year with a schoolwide Hour of Code using computer and non-computer based coding activities for every student Kindergarten through 5th Grade. Check out the action on Twitter. We learned quickly how much the students enjoyed coding and how easy it was to provide activities at each age level. Some of the most powerful experiences were seeing students work together and code without computers.

We also formed a partnership with our local high school IT program. Forest Park High School students worked hand-in-hand with our students over the course of the year. These high school masters of technology were amazed at the abilities of our young students who quickly learned to create their own games using Scratch.

We have been able to provide students with the awesome experience of VEX IQ Robotics. Last year they competed all the way to the world competition with a final #14 in the World ranking! This year, our teams are already qualifying for states through regional competitions like the one below.

My point is that not only can our students code, but they are already doing it successfully! Let’s take it to the next level with robotics and ensuring that every student, young and old, every ethnicity and gender, is able to have basic computer science skills with coding.

RESOURCES
Below are many resources that will help you get started to either learn more and/or provide lessons with students. Each tool also provides video descriptions and lessons in the classroom.

Code.org was created in 2013 as a non-profit to ensure that every student in every school have the opportunity to learn computer science. The best way to learn code is to go through the courses on code.org as a student. They do a great job of breaking it down step by step. You’ll pick it up really quickly!

Watch tutorials on the Code.org YouTube Page and watch schools code live with #HourOfCode on Twitter.

Use these free drag & drop coding online tools for students. There are many more coming out every day. Make sure students use programs that are easy to use and good quality.

  • Code.org – Multiple levels and courses that walk you through every step; Popular themes like Star Wars, Minecraft, Frozen, and Angry Birds; Lessons for teachers to use that don’t need computers
  • Scratch – A free program created by MIT Media Lab for drag and drop programming; can make games and use others’ creations as well; step-by-step tutorials; can interact with other tools like Makey Makey
  • Scratch, Jr. – An app based off of Scratch simplifies coding for young students

Use code to program these robotics tools in our school. These combine engineering and coding. Yes, we have all of these at Ashland! Consider following these Twitter accounts and hashtags to see these come to life in schools around the world.

Try these activities without the need for computers. Use them in small groups or play as a class. 

Look for upcoming blog posts on each of these tools broken down by our students at Ashland. #ashlandsoar

Do you have other ideas and resources?

What are you already doing to promote computer science skills and getting your students future ready?

Are you ready to try coding?

Are you going to be The One?!

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