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How Can Coding Teach My Students … To Be Better Students?

Coding to create better students

It's 2018! Congratulations, we made it to another year.  As we look ahead and make our resolutions to be better friends, family members, and educators, we shouldn't forget to look back and see where we just were and build on those skills inside our classrooms.

In December, the world came together to celebrate the Hour of Code.  A global recognition that Computer Science is something that all students should be exposed to.  However, for so many teachers, we take the term “Hour of Code” quite literally.  We might go to Code.org and in class, participate in one of many great activities.  But now that we are in past December and onto looking ahead at 2018, let's not forget why coding is so important.

What Can Coding Do For My Students?

As a Technology Coach in a K-12 School District, I have the privilege of bringing in topics such as coding to students of all grade levels and subject areas. I also have the amazing privilege of introducing these topics to teachers who may or may not be nervous about working with their students on topics they don't fully understand themselves.  Coding can be a great equalizer in the classroom.

First of all, Coding is all about Logical Thinking.  If you visit any of the activities on Code.org they are often very similar.  One side of the screen has a game board, one side has a canvas from which to work from, and the middle has a series of blocks which you can use to create the code that ultimately controls the pieces on the game board.  Pretty simple … right?

The first thing you do in all of these situations is come up with a solution to solve the problem and then when ready hit a button that says RUN to see if you are correct.  I have seen countless students AND teachers walk into these activities without any coding experience and before too long, they have smiles on their faces and they are actively coding their own game.  But, what if the game doesn't exist?  Can we still have Coding?

Does Coding Require Computers?

If we look at Coding as basic a series of “Logical Thinking Skills” then any grade level can learn Coding.  For example, in Kindergarten, I work with my youngest of learners on a large rectangular rug.  Depending on the classroom I'm in, the rug sometimes has colored squares or circles with the alphabet on them.  We use this as a non-digital tool to teach students how to follow directions and how to move an object (a kindergartner in this examples) from one square to the next.

Sometimes we put “rocks” in the way and the students have to navigate around them to achieve the goal of the game. This is no different than helping BB-8 navigate through the Star Wars game on Code.org.

The next step in this lesson activity (usually on a different day) is for the students to create their own coding game where they have to write down directions for a student, or the teacher to accomplish a specific task. This could be going to the bathroom, turning the lights out, or simply lining the class up to walk down the hallway.

How Many Times Have We Said This …

Think back to last year in your own classrooms. How many times have you told your students that they should simply follow the directions and that they could then accomplish anything?  This IS CODING!  How many times have you seen a student not be able to solve a math problem correctly because they messed up the first step and then from there they were completely off the right path? Again … THIS IS CODING!

What Can We Do In 2018 Together?

As we move away from the Hour of Code, I encourage you to keep working on activities that provide a pathway to successful thinking from your students.  Have them write out a flowchart on how to get home using Google Docs.  Have them create a set of directions to solve that math equation that is stumping them.  Create a situation where your students write YOU a script for teaching that you must follow … and if you don't, THEY won't be able to learn the lesson properly.  Bottom line; Coding is everywhere and now is a great time to not only celebrate an Hour of Code but to infuse a Curriculum of Code in 2017.

I would love to hear your ideas on this topic. Please leave me some comments below and share how you are bringing Coding or logical thinking into your classroom this year.

Looking For Additional Resources?

I highly suggest if you are interested in moving past the “Hour” and looking towards something fun and exciting, check out the Beyond The Hour of Code Podcast created by Dr. Sam Patterson (@SamPatue).

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About the author, Jeffrey

Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, and father of the famous @EduTriplets is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Westwood Regional School District. Thanks for checking out TeacherCast today. Please take a moment to find me on all of my Social Media channels!

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