Sunday, 24 January 2016

To Code or not to Code?

I know that this seems like a topic that is in everyone's blog post but that because it is in my own personal opinion one of the most important concepts to be teaching.

This isn't because of being the coolest new buzz word to get everyone's attention but because it actually makes our students smarter. Now I really don't have any research to back me up here but from what I have seen in K-6 it has made my students smarter. Not book smart but thinking smarts.

Coding didn't teach my kids to memorize facts or to follow procedures but to think about what they are doing and why. Sure many of them often followed other people's ideas but the thinking that went into understanding code was tremendous.

Coding in my classroom is not just about computer science. I do not believe that in my role am I a)qualified to teach the skills and b) is the place but what it is, is part of my everyday teaching.

For me coding is a tool, a vehicle for me to teach with. I treat it like I do any piece of technology or paper. It gives students a platform for learning. But it is the teacher that brings out that learning. I will be the first to tell you I only know the basics of code. But it is amazing to see kids understand and practise knowledge concepts through the act of coding.  Coding makes my students think about what is going on. It makes them understand the algorithms that we teach and learn in class and it gives a place to solidly knowledge that we normally solidify with a test or some sort of worksheet. 

Coding makes kids think and makes them creators and innovators. It teaches them to problem solve, to think and isn't that what we want for them?

I love this info-graphic:


So the questions then becomes how do I start?

Simple answer like you would another lesson. Have a big idea that you want to teach with, plan possible outcomes and find ways to modify for various students. Now think of a way to insert coding. You see it is not coding that makes it a great lesson but the planning that you do before hand. You cannot go into a lesson a just say hey let's code, you still have to plan.

Some lessons that I have done:

Measuring the distance around my hand in pixels: this grade 2 lesson had kids have their pixie move around their hand and count the pixels of their movement. We then compared the distance of our hand to fingers or the width of our thumb to that of our pinkie.

Design a game to create a pattern rule:

Students made a game for their partner to guess their rule. I also had them ask what is the algebraic statement. Students had to use algorithmic language to tell the computer what to say

Lightbot and codeable:

Are two great iPad apps that have many great practical knowledge built in. Counting, rotation, spatial sense, Cartesian planes, etc.

Coding has endless possibilities it is all up to your planning and own innovation. Remember it is not the tool that teaches but the teachers. Coding is a tool but you still need a good plan to teach.

For more ideas you should check out: