Coding – It’s Elementary!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to work with 15 teachers from various parts of the state on utilizing the free resources from Code.org to integrate Computer Science in the elementary classroom. It was a blast! IMG_3806

Recently I wrote about my experience in becoming a Code.org Affiliate and yesterday was the first time I actually got to work with teachers to implement all the things I learned at the Affiliate Summit. There are several purposes behind hosting a workshop. After attending a workshop, participants will:

  • Learn the basics of Computer Science
  • Review best practices for teaching Computer Science basics to students
  • Access free curriculum and resources for teachers
  • Plan for how to get started teaching Computer Science
  • Connect with a community of fellow educators who are making a positive change in their classrooms with coding

We started the morning – after introductions and some carbs (thank you, Panera!) – by establishing some group norms. This was critical to creating an environment where all teachers feel supported and willing to take a risk. Without those expectations, it can be very challenging for teachers to feel comfortable enough to try something new. We agreed on several norms and held one another to them, which really helped everyone to feel at ease with one another. IMG_3801

Throughout our time together, teachers interacted with, learned, and taught four different “unplugged” activities. These lessons are designed to introduce or reinforce one of the basic concepts of computer science – looping, conditionals, computational thinking, and algorithms. We learned a new dance called “The Iteration”. While maybe not as catchy as The Whip, we certainly had a lot of fun, and really appreciated the way the lesson was scaffolded. We talked about how this lesson would help to reinforce the concept of looping using real world language and experiences that kids could relate to.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when teachers were able to work together in partners to experience what Pair Programming is. We loved this video that introduces Pair Programming and talked about the benefits of using this model in their classes. Teachers then worked together with one person as the driver and the other as the navigator. Teachers naturally took turns and worked through problems when they encountered them. It was just so neat to see them working together, discussing, and collaborating! Teachers really appreciated this activity and saw how they could use this in their classrooms.

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The afternoon was devoted to providing teachers some time to delve in to more of the Unplugged lessons. Using the Teacher/Learner/Observer model, workshop participants alternated through these roles, experiencing a lesson as a teacher, a learner, and an observer. It was great to see the creative ways the groups came up with to teach Computational Thinking, Graph Paper Programming, and Songwriting. We had a blast trying to decompose a challenging math problem, follow a program using an algorithm, and making a connection between a chorus in a song and a function in a computer program.

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I was so pleased to spend the day with these risk-takers. We all learned a lot and the attendees were so thankful for the amazing and FREE resources and support available through Code.org. I’m excited to be part of the movement and to help Code.org reach their goal of getting 25,000 teachers trained by next summer.

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Interested n attending a workshop or know someone who might be? Contact me via Twitter (@athomp526) or email me at mrsktechnology[at]gmail[dot]com. 

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