This blog post was written by Kirsten Innes. Kristen is the Information Specialist at Prairieview School in Northern Illinois. Prior to landing her dream job over 20 years ago, she wasa 4th and 5th-grade classroom teacher. She is a Smart Exemplary Educator, Apple Teacher, Google Educator Levels 1 & 2, Google Certified Trainer, and Tech4Learning Innovative Educator. Kirsten has earned Masters Degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and Instructional Media. Kirsten is passionate about learning and sharing with others! She has presented at ISTE, ICE, Illinois Computing Educators State Conference, mini-conferences, SMART Exemplary Educator Global Summit, SMART User Groups and many local and regional conferences
Stage One: NO WAY! You can not make me!
A few years ago, a colleague at a technology conference told me that I should be teaching my students how to code. I was emphatically against this since the only coding experience I had was too hard to teach my elementary students. Research was shared with me about the importance of coding for our students; I kept hearing it over and over until I was finally worn down and decided to look into it more. It was with great trepidation that I signed up to learn more about what I considered to be the latest ‘fad’ in education.
Stage Two: UGH! Fine, I’ll try it!
Illinois Computing Educators put on a free full-day workshop by code.org. I went on a sunny Saturday in October and frankly was not looking forward to wasting a day of beautiful and rare fall weather. Amazingly, the day was over before I knew it, in a great way! It was one of the best days of PD I had experienced in a long time. I could not wait to get to school on Monday and start teaching everyone what I had learned.
Stage Three: OMG! This is AWESOME!
Coding and programming has opened up a new world to my kindergarten through fourth-grade students. Everyone looks forward to our coding sessions – I mean everyone! Boys, girls, bilingual students, students with special needs, high and low-level learners, you name it! What else can I say that about? It’s amazing to see.
Now: Coding in my Classroom
Each year we begin with using the code studio from code.org which allows me to place the students in courses that they complete at their own pace. There are levels for all learners! Did I mention that this is a FREE resource? Yes! Free!
After working with code.org, we start to introduce the coding and programming of our ‘Robot Family’. I have been lucky to receive grants from our D46 Foundation to purchase robots for the classroom. We also use Scratch to have the students create their own video games as well as animate words and stories. This is another FREE resource!
How can you start?
There are so many great and free resources to help teach learners how to code and program; you just need to find what works for you. There is a section on code.org’s website that is highlighted for The Hour of Code with activities that are short and sweet and can be completed in a short amount of time. Our coding activities now cover many, many hours! We even have a ‘Family Night of Code’ every year to share the importance of and excitement about our learning!
All ages and levels of learners can be successful learning coding. Teaching students to code has transformed my teaching and opened new and exciting possibilities for student learning. Jump in and try it! I can almost promise that you won’t regret it. Be prepared for your students to be WAY smarter than you are; if they’re anything like mine, they will knock your socks off!