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.

 

Reaching Multilingual Learners with BrainPop and YouTube

As a teacher in a school with a high population of diverse learners, I am always looking for ways to support student understanding of concepts. I know I am not the only educator who strives to get my students to “get it.” I am lucky enough to have had students who received special education services, students who received ELL services, students with highly able plans, students considered below grade level and students who were well above grade level. In the inclusive classroom, you have to find a way to reach everyone.

Before I begin, let me say I do not work for BrainPop or YouTube.

In the past, I have used BrainPop like many teachers have. My school provides subscriptions to our students. I head to BrainPop.com and have my students explore or watch a specified video and complete the quizzes or other activities. In that capacity, it is a great resource. However, using BrainPop in that way just scratches the surface of its capabilities.

I work in a school with a high population of students who receive ELL services, most speaking Spanish. Contrary to what many believe, most of our teachers do not speak Spanish, including me! I teach STEM, science and social studies. All subjects are rich in content vocabulary. One thing I like to do is find coordinating videos through Brainpop and Brainpop Español.

In an upcoming economics lesson, I will be teaching about supply and demand. I will introduce the concept through BrainPop videos. Through a quick Google translation, I was able to figure out how to say “supply and demand” in Spanish. I then found the cooresponding videos on Brainpop (Supply and Demand) and Brainpop Español (Oferta y Demanda). (Note: You will need to log in to your BrainPop account to watch these movies).

First, the entire class will watch the video in English. Then, the class will choose to watch it again in the language of their choice (English or Spanish) rewatching, pausing, and rewinding as needed and taking notes to understand the vocabulary words (like:  supply, demand, consumer, etc.). In the past, I have noticed that my native Spanish speakers will write the English and Spanish translations next to each other. Sometimes they will also annotate my notes or worksheets with the Spanish translations of vocabulary.

Videos that took me a few extra minutes to find, allow me to scaffold my instruction in a way that helps to reach my learners in a meaningful way.

BrainPop is a pay services and I know that every school doesn’t provide for it’s use. YouTube on the other hand is free. Another method that I use to support student understanding is to change the language on my closed captioning on YouTube videos.

I try to always choose videos on YouTube that have closed captioning. This allows me to play the closed captioning on the screen as students view the video. This is helpful for student comprehension (especially for students who need to see the words to understand or need help spelling new vocabulary words). I then give students the option of watching the video again with English or alternate subtitles (like Spanish or French if those languages are represented in your class). This may mean having alternate “watching stations” in the classroom. I have created a 2 minute video that explains how to change the closed captioning on YouTube videos. It is super easy to do and offers an easy way to support learners who are literate in another language.

The video Fabulous Food Chains: Crash Course Kids #7.1 was not created by A. Dahl. It was created by Crash Course Kids. 

Are You Keeping Up? The Evolution of Technology in Education

As an educator embarking on this journey to become a technology facilitator, I wondered about how technology use has changed and evolved over time. I feel that every teacher has the opportunity to infuse the use of technology (read: facilitate) into their curriculum in many ways. Are you the teacher still grasping on to old technologies when newer, more efficient ways of engaging students is at your fingertips? Take a look at “Then vs Now: How Technology in Schools Has Changed Over Time.”

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Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Is your level of technology proficiency tied to the way teachers incorporated technology in the 1930’s (via movies and television shows)? Even if you use a big, fancy interactive whiteboard, are you using it to its full potential, or are you using it to replace a film projector, overhead projector, or TV screen? Is your interactive whiteboard  just a high tech replacement for the standard whiteboard introduced in the 1960’s or worse…the chalkboard, invented in 1801?

According to Masterofartsinteaching.net, computers for student use became prolific in classrooms in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. SMART boards came about in 1999. Kids were using games for learning on classroom computers in 1985. As educators, we shouldn’t be using technology the same way they did 15-30 YEARS AGO. You. Must. GROW!

So how is technology being used?

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(Find more at  How Are Students Really Using Mobile Devices on Daily Genius by Katie Dunn)

Through the use of technology we have the opportunity to engage learners in new ways. We can use the technology available in its most basic  ways OR we can make it work for us and our learners. How are you using your interactive whiteboard? Do you need ideas? Here are ways to use technology available in classrooms across the country for more than their most basic capabilities.

Here are a few places to get great ideas for taking technology use, in your classroom, to new heights: