This is a collaborative post written with the awesome Adam Welcome (@awelcome), Principal of Montair Elementary in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, EBCUE Site Leader of the Year and Co-Founder of Kids Deserve It (@KidsDeserveIt)!
Just a few weeks ago Adam was talking with some Principals and one commented -
“I’m surprised people are still talking about coding. Do you think it’s here to stay? Most of the kids at my school won’t be programmers or work for a tech company.”
“Gasp!” from Adam -
Why teach coding with kids?
It’s really everywhere!
Supermodels - President Obama - Kindergarten students and even NBA stars. Coding has been around for years and within the last few has become much more mainstream with awareness about the possibilities for jobs and creating cool things really at the forefront of the conversation.
We both talk with lots of teachers on a daily basis from all over the country and the amount of coding going on is actually really low. Many teachers participated in #hourofcode or have done some type of ‘extra’ coding lesson and it kind of ends there. We believe coding is the new foreign language and kids need as much exposure as possible.
Kevin Honey (Middle School Principal) has a coding class for all 6th graders at his school, way to go beyond just #hourofcode - how about #yearofcode!
A.1 we have a coding class in our 6th grade rotation and all students participate in the #hourofcode #mdusdchat— Kevin Honey (@mrkhoney) May 11, 2016
- Coding is fun, but that doesn’t mean it should be relegated to one hour a year in school. Fun can be leveraged and channeled. Fun can often be a signal that something is relevant to students.
- Coding taps into a different level of thinking. This mindset, if properly nurtured, can transcend spelling, math, language arts, and PE. When kids have real actual practice with algorithms, cause-and-effect, and problem-solving they are more inclined to apply these skills throughout the day. Coding cultivates this mindset!
- Coding is a language of it’s own. "Coding is the new literacy.” Students who learn to read and write code are actually learning a new language. Programming is a universal language and knowing it helps prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet!
Coding Isn’t -
- Coding isn’t some amazingly complex program that only a coding expert can understand. The adult that’s facilitating the coding experience for kids at your school doesn’t even need to know how to code! Five years ago coding was a much harder experience to create for kids. With code.org and other resources, block coding is an excellent place to start, especially with Elementary students - check it out!
- Coding isn’t some fad that’s here for now and will fade away. Code has been in our lives for years, and thankfully has now been mainstreamed so everyone can have access and learn. From the cars we drive, our mobile phones, refrigerators and even tractors - they all run with code and the number of jobs in our marketplace for people who can write that code is staggering!
Kids Think Kids Should Learn to Code!
If you’re still unsure about the benefits of teaching coding, perhaps the kids themselves can convince you. Students at Karly’s school, Sun Terrace Elementary, program all year long and they know how important it is to learn programming. We asked them to tell us why it’s crucial to know and they gave us terrific reasons why kids think kids should learn to code!
- “You will have a lot more options in college and in your career.” Elijah 5th Grader
- “It helps you learn step by step and figure stuff out.” Jenna 5th Grader
- “It makes your dreams come true! If you dream it, you can make it by coding” Robert 3rd Grader
- “Everyone should learn how to code!” Jonathan 3rd Grader
- “Because it’s fun!” Alejandra 3rd Grader
Getting Started With Coding in Your Classroom
Most of us are new(er) to coding and most likely have students who are brand new as well. Luckily there are a lot of resources out there to support those of us who are just getting our feet wet in the world of computer science.
- Getting started with Scratch: Creative Computing Guide
- Brian Aspinall's "Getting Kids to Code" page has resources broken down by grade level!
- MIT App Inventor an introduction to programing and app creation.
- Cool Coding Apps and Websites for Kids from Common Sense Media
HyperDocs: Coding lessons and activities created by educators. Go to “file” and make a copy to save it to your Google drive to remix or assign as is to your students.
Computer Science Clubs/Programs:
- Google's CS First (Computer Science First) a FREE program that increases students' access to computer science.
Going Deeper Than Drag and Drop
If you're a novice yourself but looking for a resource that will take you and your students farther into the world of computer science check out pythonroom.com. A curriculum that allows you and your students to learn python at your own pace. It is completely free and you can start setting up your classroom by logging in using your Google account! Check out this article New EdTech Resource. Pythonroom: Help All Students Become Coding Literate to learn more.
Taking Coding Above and Beyond!
Robots are cool. Drones are awesome. What better way to take coding to the next level than to code a robot to drive or roll or to program a drone to fly? These amazing tech tools give kids an incredibly engaging and fun experience as they are learning to code. Watching students draw a track then reason logically through the steps as they write the code to get their robot to drive on it it is one of the coolest things we have seen!
Dash from Wonder Workshop is an adorable little robot that can be programmed using 5 different apps available on IOS and Android! The various apps make it possible for students from pre-k+ to begin programming a robot. Dash starts at $149.99 and will need an app compatible device to be used with it.
Students in the STEM Lab at Karly’s school use programming every day! Combining coding robots with geometry gives students hands-on experience with angles and shapes. Check out this kiddo coding Dash to make a right triangle.
SPHERO makes an app enabled, you guessed it, sphere shaped robots (although Ollie is more cylinder shaped) that work with both IOS and Android. There are a few different kinds to choose from including the new Star Wars robot BB-8! Also check out the SPRK edition made to be used in an education setting to give students a "crash course" in programming with this awesome robot.
Parrot Drones come highly recommended from those on Twitter (like Brian Briggs) who have been using them in education. Need ideas for using Drones to teach? Check out 7 Ways to Use Drones in the Classroom by Edutopia and join the Drones for Schools G+ community.
Have more resources? Please share them in the comments below!
Happy coding everyone!