How to Incorporate Coding in the Classroom
According to the 2018 State of Digital Learning Report, nearly 50% of survey respondents are currently using coding in their classrooms. Code.org, a leading coding nonprofit, estimates that nearly a third of students in the United States have an account on their site, with over 35 million coding projects created. Coding is hot right now—here are a few ways you can take advantage of this Edtech trend and incorporate coding into the classroom.
No Experience with Coding? No Problem.
You don't have to binge code on the weekends to advocate for coding in th classroom or coding in general. In fact, you don't have to know anything about coding at all! Edutopia has compiled several resources, from coding classes and programs on Code.org to other opportunities, so you can learn and implement coding at your own pace.
Once you start coding in the classroom, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's okay to feel lost sometimes. Remember—you are not alone. Don't try to implement coding in isolation. Rely on colleagues and other resources to help—you don't have to be the "sage on the stage" to pull this off. As you learn and grow, you will be surprised how your students will respond to your willingness to learn alongside them as a guide, not a guru.
Coding in the Classroom: For All Grades & Class Types
Coding in the classroom isn't just for computer science class. Logic exercises and coding concepts can be embedded across the curriculum. One resource cites Tynker for the creation of custom animations. For example, if you are a biology teacher, imagine how mitosis and meiosis could come to life through coding and be seamlessly integrated into your classroom learning management system (LMS). Too often, concepts like cell division are taught exclusively from the textbook or by having students make a series of drawings. Why not kick it up a notch?
Another example: Twine allows the user to build interactive stories using coding principles. The possibilities for English language arts, social studies, and more are limitless. What if you took just one unit this year and had students use a tool like this? What if it became something bigger?
Gamify Your Classroom With Fun Activities
Coding activities are a great opportunity to gamify your classroom, especially if you work with younger students. Edutopia recommends Tynker Games and Robot Turtles for early elementary learners, and CodeCombat and Code Monkey Island for older students (age 9 and older). My oldest loves his programmable mouse game. Some of these tools are online and some are tabletop games, but all teach coding skills in unique (and fun) ways.
The Tech Edvocate reminds us that students may feel intimidated when making the transition from traditional classroom talk to actual coding practice. So, in addition to keeping things positive and fun, remember to build student confidence by helping them through their first hands-on experiences. I will never forget the thrill of copying lines of BASIC code from Byte Magazine in the mid-1980s and seeing a game come to life on my Apple II+. You can create similar hands-on experiences for your students.
Differentiate Instruction When Teaching Students Coding
Coding in the classroom presents the perfect opportunity to realize the benefits of differentiated instruction. Typically, this involves the content, processes, and products of a classroom. Take product, for example: Imagine the value of an assignment where students collaborate to code a project of their choice in whatever language they desire. One group might work up a website in HTML, while another group programs a game in Python.
At first, differentiating for the needs of multiple groups of students can seem daunting. After all, some students will take to coding like fish to water, and others will need more time and attention. In other words, everyone's process will be different. So is yours and that's okay. Keep it simple; you can be flexible on language choice, time, and final product, among other factors. Don't let these challenges become roadblocks. Work for progress, not perfection, in differentiating for student needs.
Partner with a Local Software Company
If you are fortunate to be able to partner with a local resource for your coding initiative, do it. Is there a company in your area that might want to participate in the Hour of Code initiative? If so, reach out. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
My school has built a strong partnership with a local software company. The company routinely sends guest speakers to our business and computer classes and our students regularly participate in shadowing experiences, bootcamps, and other opportunities on their corporate campus.
Use Your LMS to Curate Coding Resources
As evidenced by the links above, there are a ton of coding resources available at no cost to you and your students. Use your learning management system to curate these resources. You can tailor specific tools to certain lessons. A good LMS will allow you to house these tools in one place, link them to specific lessons and objectives, and engage the class in productive online discussions along the way.
Crack the Code
Not since the birth of the personal computer, replete with hobbyist groups and after school BASIC coding clubs, has coding been so popular and so accessible for a wide range of students (and adults!) There are more tools available than ever before—both offline and online—and you don't have to be the next Bill Gates to incorporate those tools in your classroom today.
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