It’s Not Too Late to Teach Your Students to Code

9259-power-button-on-the-side-of-a-computer-pvThe Hour of Code window may have come and gone, but it isn’t too late to teach your students to code! Coding is computer programming. Students who learn to code learn to write code in computer languages.  This can allow students to do simple tasks like control the movement of a character on a screen, or more complex tasks like creating games and stories. Before I share how to get your students started, let’s discuss WHY you should get your students started.

According to ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education www.iste.org) “Our nation’s current trajectory points to a lasting digital era, and we’ll need people who can think like software engineers and network architects, whether they are writing an app or solving resource distribution problems in a third-world setting — or doing both at the same time.” -Pat Yongpradit, Should we teach computer science in elementary school?

11073-the-white-house-in-washington-dc-pvPresident Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative was announced in January 2016 and promotes the teaching of computer science in grades K-12 as a means of readying American students to be, not just consumers of digital technology, but also creators. As educators, we have an opportunity to help our learners problem solve using creativity and innovation. When coding, perseverance is a must and overcoming failure and mistakes are part of the game. This is what our students need. Give your students opportunities to learn to rescue themselves and use mistakes not as obstacles, but opportunities for growth.

So how can you start coding with your students? There are several websites and programs online. I have compiled a list of free resources available online. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Instead, it is a place to start…

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Free to Code Sites

Code.org offers a series of courses that are engaging for students including themed courses using settings and characters from Star Wars, Minecraft, and Frozen. The website even offers guided programs and lesson plans for ways to use code in classrooms without consistent computer access.

Codecademy allows users to learn a variety of computer programming languages in a game-like atmosphere. As a teacher, you can download free computer science lesson plans to get you started!

Code Monster users are able to explore code writing by writing code in one box while the “cute” monster follows the code commands in the adjacent box. Budding programmers are able to explore cause and effect of the codes they write through guiding prompts.

Hackety Hack!  is a place to learn the basics of programming using the Ruby programming language.

ScratchED allows users to program interactive stories, games, simulations, and animations. It has an extensive online community to help answer questions and give advice. Resources are also available at scratched.gse.harvard.edu.

Google CS First is a complete computer science curriculum designed for kids in grade 4-8. The program uses the block-based code, SCRATCH, to engage learners in the coding world. The best part is that it is FREE. Designed to be used as a club, it has the potential to also fit into STEM curricula as well.

Turtle Academy teaches students how to write code in the LOGO computer language. Students are able to create designs and pictures using the programming methods learned during their coursework.

 

Are Teachers Instructional Designers?

What is instructional design?

According to InstructionalDesign.org, instructional design is “the process by which instruction is improved through the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of learning materials. Instructional designers often use technology and multimedia as tools to enhance instruction.”

Merriam-Webster gives a simple definition for teacher: “a person or thing that teaches something; especially : a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects.”

I think it is safe to say that educators that incorporate technology and multimedia into the planning of instruction, the deliverance of instruction, and the assessment of instruction are instructional designers. Teachers today, who incorporate 21st century skills into the very design of their teaching, are by definition instructional designers.

Do not misunderstand me, just because you add a video to instruction, does not represent an adherence to the principles of true instructional design. The incorporation of technology should improve instruction. It should allow for analysis of the learning and the impact of that instruction. So as we ask ourselves if we are instructional designers, we must also ask:

  • Is the technology we incorporate meaningful?
  • Is the technology we include an enhancement to the instruction?
  • Do we use the technology chosen because we want to or because it is the most effective way to instruct our students?

As an educator, I must constantly evaluate the effectiveness of my instruction. Finding the delicate balance between creating engaging lessons, lessons that are enhanced by technology, yet not overwhelmed by it, is the name of the game!. As I embark on that journey, I have to look more to the processes that make up instructional technology in order to truly do it justice. In the text we are using, Instructional Design for eLearning by Marina Arshavskiy, so many processes and models are being introduced. Right now, I think ADDIE will be at the forefront of our discussions.  I am looking forward to the learning…

Just something to ponder. Instructional Designer Pedagogy Word Cloud from digitalpedagog.org