Incorporating coding into instruction requires educators to take practical steps for having students learn concepts/practices and also a system(s) for measuring their progress. My experiences have taught me that through the inherent nature of design, STEM/STEAM educators are essentially obligated to teach the other content areas that are key to educating the whole child (or learner). When our projects teach students engineering with the requirement of applying coding, learning the skill is easier than when learning is attempted without the context of the design process. In that regard, I highly recommend not reinventing the wheel and using reputable resources:
- The K-12 Computer Science Framework and Code.org are excellent sources for accessing good guidelines and activities for computer science (CS) education which can also be infused into your existing STEM/STEAM curriculum.
- Getting students started with visual programming languages is a great place to start developing their coding skills.
- The littleBits Code Kit is a technology tool that comes equipped with electronic building blocks, an app with coding tutorials and is an excellent scaffold for teaching the concepts of coding, light, sound, and motion through conceptual model design.
Step 1: Introduce
Familiarize students with the technology and coding learning environment in the Code Kit by allowing them to explore the app and videos. All will be excited by the cool gadgets and electronics, but some may initially be intimidated by the app and the unfamiliar coding tutorials. I highly recommend pairing them up with a code buddy and conducting instruction in small groups.
Step 2: Create
Pair your students and have them pick one of the Code Kit four games/design challenges to get started (i.e., ultimate shoot out, rock star guitar, hot potato and tug of war). Make sure the app is installed correctly and have plenty of art supplies on hand. Have them work systematically by using the engineering design process or the littleBits invention cycle and be sure to use the appropriate Code Kit educator resources.
Rock star guitar project production
Through app tutorials, students learn coding principles and apply new skills to building games that are controlled by Google Blockly-based code.
Step 3: Play (test)
Allow students to test how their code manipulates the design(s) they created and use this as a formative assessment opportunity to ensure that the intended learning is being achieved. Be sure to let them know that it’s ok to fail and allow them to revise their designs during this step.
Step 4: Remix (improve designs)
Allow students to develop their ingenuity skills by improving their initial code/designs. Doing so ensures that they mastered the coding principles and teaches them how designers use iteration for refining the products they create before settling on a final solution.
Rock star guitar project remix
Step 5: Share
I recommend permitting students to explain their designs in a public presentation format that includes an audience that extends beyond their teacher and classmates (i.e., parents, community, industry partners, etc.). This step is great for having students put their best foot forward while developing their speaking and listening skills and use of multimedia to elucidate their learning.
Sharing the Rock star guitar project
Jorge Valenzuela is an educational coach and a graduate teaching assistant and doctoral student at Old Dominion University. He is a national faculty of the Buck Institute for Education and a national teacher effectiveness coach with the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). He is also a member of the first Lead Educators Cohort for littleBits. You can connect with Jorge on Twitter @JorgeDoesPBL to continue the conversation.
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