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

The Role of Provocations

If you haven’t engaged in a #pypchat via twitter I strongly recommend it. Every two weeks a different topic is discussed on twitter for an hour with PYP educators around the world. This past week “powerful provocations” was the focus.

I love the idea of a great provocation to get children thinking about concepts and ideas. In fact, I felt as though this would actually be an area where I might feel confident sharing ideas and past experiences. Early on in the hour of chat I realized I’m just scratching the surface in terms of provocations and a mind shift occurred.

In the beginning of my career I truly had no grasp of provocations. It was one of those things that fell through the cracks in any PD I experienced and I was busy enough trying to stay afloat that my own independent inquiry into  the idea was the farthest thing from my mind. I remember it clearly years later, on every unit planner I considered the unit texts we had available as the provocation. Then one day a new colleague of mine took nearly everything out of his classroom one night, leaving the walls bare and shelves empty, and the next day had his students complete tasks with limited resources. It was then that I realized that the provocation should be powerful and leave an impression.

At my current school we try to engage the children in a provocation that connects to our related concepts but does not actually focus on the central idea. The idea being that we get students interested in the concepts and then connect that to the focus of the inquiry. In fact our newly developed inquiry model begins with “an invitation” to the unit, occurring through our provocation.

During the #pypchat I began to realize greater possibilities for the purpose and scope of provocations. @whatedsaid made me recognize that a provocation can be simple and yet still powerful, such as a question or statement on the board, a song played or a few images displayed. Provocations can connect to related concepts but also can be linked to creating new student questions, a new direction for the inquiry or action. The idea that provocations can happen throughout a unit was another point made and that had me instantly thinking of my current unit and ways in which I can continue to engage students in thinking and questioning right through to the summative assessment. Using provocations within emergent planning can help ensure student-led inquiry is truly happening.

The bottom line of it all was that the best provocations, no matter their form or level of sophistication, would leave a lasting impression on students, one which they would often think back on and connect to their learning.

Last year I used this provocation to get my students thinking about evidence. It truly was an experience that they would continue to talk about for the rest of the year and the concept of evidence was seemingly entrenched in their minds.

The #pypchat has become my provocation for teaching.