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!

Websites:

http://www.crunchzilla.com/code-maven

http://www.crunchzilla.com/code-monster

http://hackety.com/

http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0

http://www.stencyl.com/

http://scratch.mit.edu/

http://www.tynker.com/

http://twolivesleft.com/CargoBot/

http://gamestarmechanic.com/

Apps:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/daisy-the-dinosaur/id490514278?mt=8&affId=2104173

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kodable/id577673067?mt=8&affId=2104178

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id617098629?mt=8&affId=1736887

http://movetheturtle.com/

Want EVEN more cool tech tools for the classroom?

http://www.ed-ucation.ca/3/post/2013/11/day-1-of-global-education-conference-2013-globaled13.html

Start a coding club at your school!

https://www.codeclub.org.uk/

Cheers!

Tosca Killoran

EDITS* Forgot some gravy-

http://www.codechef.com/school

Advertisements

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten

The other evening, I was having over-drinks conversation amongst mixed professionals and it came out that I teach five year olds. “That’s cool, I mean, everything I ever needed to know, I learned in kindergarten” was immediately quipped back at me citing the 1988 essay by minister Robert Fulghum. My innards suddenly flip-flopped, and not because of the sensitivities of my stomach to the merlot, or my atheistic brain of the connection between my profession, nay- my calling, to the ancient musing of a minister but because of something else I couldn’t quite place my finger on.

Walking home later, I thought about it, did all I ever really need to know I learned as a five year old? Did the premise hold true 24 years after Fulghum’s essay was written? No, the answer is simply, no.

We live in a shifting paradigm in which we are teaching children who are learning for jobs that don’t even exist. We are teaching children who have connectivity with the entire world and who, by the time I had mastered tying my shoes and figured out to not lick light bulbs, will have learned to make their own apps and programs.

It has become our mandate to teach not just sharing and caring, but also coding. The onus is on teachers to develop the skills and aptitudes needed to integrate technology as an integral part of their teaching and learning cycle.

So teachers, get out of your comfort zone and into the place where the magic happens (yes, I said magic- but purely in a literary-parlancey kind of way).

There are many new and interesting ways that technology can be used for collaboration, communication and creation within the learning environment. Teachers are using Pinterest boards such as http://pinterest.com/edpublishing/ to post innovative tech for the classroom. Blogs such as, http://www.edutopia.org/blogs and http://www.teachthought.com/ as well as tech hubs such as, http://www.scoop.it/t/technology-in-education are dedicated to providing resources, inspirations and practical tips for use of technology integration.

My own learning environment is Reggio inspired and PYP driven, and the focus for technology is on playfulness and creativity. Children use the iPad to capture photos and create short films of learning adventures with http://animoto.com/, they make their own super heroes on http://cpbherofactory.com/ and then write and tell stories about their adventures through a puppet show app, http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/puppet-pals-hd/id342076546?mt=8. We enlist the older learners as teachers and invite them into our classroom every few weeks to showcase a new skill, app, or site that they have learned about. This benefits our older learners by synthesizing their understanding through teaching and the younger students by gaining valuable skills. More importantly, it teaches both groups that the use of technology does not have to be contained within a solitary bubble.

Perhaps it is not Fulghum’s essay that should be the go-to statement of early childhood education but rather, Jane Cowen-Fletcher’s children’s story, It Takes a Village. Now more then ever it takes a village to teach a class of children. No teacher has encyclopedic knowledge of the world, but the Internet does. The world is our village, the globe our community. We need to model for students that teachers are also life-long learners by embracing the skills and aptitudes we need to develop as we experience the shift in our profession. Technology gives us opportunities, outlooks and access that we simply did not have in our own kindergarten classrooms. It is a whole new world of learning.

So, what technology will you integrate into your teaching and learning cycle today?

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 4.26.23 PM

 

Aside