Monday, November 24, 2014

Kids Who Code: Exploring and Evaluating Coding Tools

The Kids Who Code project is well underway in our classroom!  Our class has been exploring coding for the last couple of weeks.  We've learned that coding is "giving computers instructions/directions" and students have had the chance to try out a variety of coding tools.  My students have learned a lot (and so have I!)

Here is what we've been up to:

Exploration Time:
Students have used different devices to explore a variety of coding tools including Lightbot, Hopscotch, Kodable, Code Monkey, ScratchJr., Tynker and Daisy the Dinosaur.  These initial explorations were typically preceded by a short demonstration from me or a short video tutorial.  The instructions/demonstrations were minimal since I have limited experience with these tools and I wanted students to discover things on their own.  Due to the number of devices in our classroom, students worked in pairs or small groups to spend about 10-15 minutes with each app over the course of about 1 week. 

Evaluation and Feedback:
We decided on some important characteristics of coding tools and, after trying each tool, students used a simple 5 point rating scale to evaluate the tools.  Students also gave comments and suggestions.  In response to a student suggestion, we sent these evaluations to the creators of the app/tool via Twitter.  (A couple of them even responded to thank us for our feedback!). 

Kids Who Code Code-a-thon:

We are gearing up to take part in Hour of Code, which is an international movement to encourage people to try coding.  The Hour of Code week is from December 8-14th this year and we are co-hosting our own event to celebrate.  Working with Mrs. Caldwell and the Oak Lake Community School Kindergartens, we are organizing the Kids Who Code Code-a-thon.  During this event, my students will act as "coding experts" and teach others about coding.  With this goal in mind, students selected a coding tool to "specialize" in for the event.  We are now working in small teams to become experts with our selected tools and develop activities for Code-a-thon attendees to try out when they visit our stations at the event!  Meanwhile, we are supporting the Kindergartens as they plan the details of hosting the event at their school.  We are very excited to continue with this learning project!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pigeon Meets Flat Matt

Our class has been working hard on "The Pigeon Project" this year, which involves publishing our own books.  Our project was inspired by our favorite author Mo Willems, who writes hilarious stories about a persuasive pigeon that loves puppies, hot dogs, cookies and buses.  When Flat Matt joined our classroom earlier this month, we decided that we'd like to make a very special book for Matt's class back at Glor Na Mara School in Tramore, Ireland. 

After days of enthusiastic writing, illustrating and book-making, the final product is ready to share!  We really hope our new friends in Ireland enjoy this book.  It is available as a PDF file or ePub file or a narrated video version, all of which we created with the Book Creator app!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kids Who Code

This school year, I am working on a very special project with two other educators in Manitoba, Mrs. Connie Lowe and Mrs. Devon Caldwell.  We have been fortunate to receive support for our work from the MTS Reflective Professional Practice Grant.  Our project is called Kids Who Code and it's all about helping our young learners develop coding skills.  

So... what is coding?  According to Code Conquest, "Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browser, your OS, the apps on your phone, Facebook ... they’re all made with code."  Coding is what many of us call "computer science" or "computer programming" and we're excited to bring it to our classrooms.

So.. why teach coding?   Personally, we feel that coding will help us develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills in our young learners. asserts that, "Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path." 

Kids Who Code project goals:
  • explore coding tools with K-2 students   
  • provide opportunities for students to try coding, using a variety of tools 
  • get involved with the Hour of Code movement 
  • document our professional learning and our students' learning