There’s no way around it, technology is here to stay. We’d be doing our students a disservice if we didn’t integrate digital skills regularly into the classroom. If you are use laptops or 1 to 1 devices to offer students a chance to use apps and other interactive programs in the classroom, then you’ve already gotten started. But the next step is to help students make the types of programs that they’re using rather than just being passive consumers. By teaching your students to code, you are helping them gain skills that will be useful in the future job market. And don’t worry if you don’t even know what a line of code looks like. Today, there are lots of ways to help students learn to code even if you can barely turn on your computer.
Programmers who write software code understand how each task that needs to happen gets broken down into steps. This concept is simple enough for even young children to learn. It’s called sequencing. Ask students to accomplish a task. Using sequencing, they have to figure out all of the steps that need to be performed and in what order to do them to accomplish the task. Another coding concept is looping. This is where a series of steps is repeated until a certain task is complete. Have students play with creating repetitive patterns to practice looping.
Use websites like Scratch which is developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This site can help young students learn visual programming languages. With this knowledge, students can create mazes and animations. Sites like Code.org which is a nonprofit that promotes coding, help students play games to learn programming languages. Students are engaged by what they’re able to create. These sites also move children out of simple programming techniques and into more specific ones like conditionals. For example, students can write code that moves the figure forward if there is open space but if not, the figure turns right.
There are even non-technical ways to help your students learn programming. For example there is a board game called Robot Turtles for ages 3 to 8. The game teaches the fundamentals of programming. Then instruction cards are pulled one at a time and the robot turtle character moves based on those instructions. Using experiential learning, kids learn processes like debugging, order of operations, planning and writing programming, and functions. You can also check out the book Hello Ruby. It teaches kids about computers, technology, and programming. Students learn the basics of these things by following Ruby on a quest to find and retrieve her lost magical gems. She meets up with friends along the way who represents structures like sequences, variables, loops, and conditionals. The Hello Ruby website has some great resources for educators.
Do you teach your students skills like coding even when you don’t know them yourself? We’d love to hear about your experience with this.