Cool Coding

Sometimes I think people forget that the pencil, the printing press and pulled paper are all forms of technology. As they are ubiquitous in our lives, it would totally blow our minds if someone were to look at us and say, “Ya, I don’t really do pencils.”

But the other night I was out with a very influential leader in education who essentially stated that very thing, “Ya, I don’t really do technology.” Jaw drop.

Every era demands different skills.

As a kid I learned to grow a garden, build a tree house, stunt ride my bike (the scars on my body attest to this) and generally cause chaos. And all those things are still valid, just as the pencil and paper are still valid forms of technology. For instance, I used a saw to build my tree-house and my parents didn’t say,

“Hell no Tosca, you have to go beaver on that tree and keep it old-school, girl.”

Nope, they let me use the available technology I had at my disposal. More than that, they took the time to teach me how to use it responsibly, with care, and to get the most out of it in order to harness my creative ideas and projects.

Now, we are teaching kids to code.

The tools that I have listed below keep programming within easy reach of children. They are designed on the “low floor, high ceiling” philosophy, which makes it easy for a beginner to build working programs. We are teaching kids to code, not so much as an end in itself, but because our world has changed: so many of the things we once did with pencil and paper we can now do in code. We are teaching coding to help our students craft their future.

However, the real goal rests not in the student’s ability to code, but the complex network of skills that are contained within coding. Among other things, this entails thinking logically and algorithmically but also creatively, and collaboratively.

Enter the teacher.

As a PYP teacher, coding to me is a natural fit within the context of an inquiry-based, conceptually driven, program of inquiry. Kids, when coming up with creative solutions for complex questions need a plethora of skills to reach the transfer goal of being able to show their understanding in new contexts. In the PYP, these skills are unpacked within the context of the inquiry.  From Thinking skills and the acquisition of knowledge, to Self management skills and codes of behavior- coding for kids hits on so many of the skills that students within the PYP explore each day.

The real challenge is not the students, but the teachers. Getting teachers to understand coding is not scary- some unobtainable pie-in-the-sky, crazy, new-fangled, young teacher thang. Nope. I’m 38, yo. AND I have a learning need. AND I can rudimentary code, all-thanks to the kids programs I have listed here.

Teachers need to understand that they do not need to be experts in the tools that they introduce to students. The tool is just that, a tool. Teachers are guiding students to develop the higher order thinking skills needed to play the role of a programmer. And those are skills we ALREADY teach everyday.

So what are your ideas for fitting coding into your units of inquiry? What Transdisciplinary theme could you fit the use of these resources authentically under? What are you already doing in your learning communities? I would love to hear from you!



Want EVEN more cool tech tools for the classroom?

Start a coding club at your school!


Tosca Killoran

EDITS* Forgot some gravy-


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. brenchan
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 01:11:48

    Thanks for this post, Tosca. I didn’t realise how easy it is to learn to code.
    We recently started an after-school Scratch club at our school (, which has been one of the most popular clubs we’ve ever offered- waiting list, yo! However, due to a severe lack of resources, it is very difficult for our teachers to incorporate coding into UoI’s.
    I also think that some teachers are hesitant to invite coding into their classroom if they don’t understand it themselves, but I agree with you- teachers don’t necessarily need to be experts at every single tool in a classroom. Why don’t we experiment, explore, and learn alongside our students? Especially if our students are enthusiastic and excited! Who are we to deny them, just because we might lose a degree of ‘control’? Be a risk taker! 😉
    Thanks again, Tosca.


  2. Brian Inskeep ISR
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 10:28:09

    Grade 4 students have begun their “Hour of Code” with Khan Academy at

    We have some really excited ‘programmers of the future ‘now!


  3. jeffmwoodcock
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 15:02:04

    We start our “Hour of Code” next week at The KAUST School. Shared this post with the school as we prepare and look ahead. This was “just-in-time” PD, thanks!


  4. @i2Learn
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 02:20:49

    Love this post! Introduced “Hour of Code” and students have not stopped–it has turned into ” ‘Our’ of Code”! Learning alongside one another (teachers/students) is best part because we see ourselves as equal partners in one another’s learning. Engagement is high as learners take this opportunity and run with it! Started a Code Club!
    Great post and enjoy all your inquiring minds team is doing!
    Engaged With and Inspired By Other People’s Learning Journeys!


  5. Tosca Killoran
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 12:50:11

    Hi There Simpsons, That is really strange. I went into WordPress settings and I can’t see your email there as a ‘reply back’. This must be something you can do similar to Facebook when you choose to stop notifications. It should be at the bottom of the email that is sent to you and states “Stop notifications for this post”. I will also send an email to the admin of this blog but I am uncertain why you would be getting several emails each time! I will try to trouble shoot for you but have a look on your WordPress account and see if we can tag team it ^^


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