Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coding Club: Exploring TouchDevelop

This post is part of a series of entries documenting the startup of our Kids Who Code Coding Club at Hamiota Elementary.  

When we resumed coding club meetings after Christmas, I offered to introduce a new coding tool to any Grade 5 students who were interested in trying something more challenging.  I had heard a lot of good things about how middle years students were using TouchDevelop to complete tutorials and create games and I felt the Grade 5s would be successful with the added difficulty.  Unfortunately, with dozens of other students in the gym, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend directly teaching students how to get started.  I helped them get to and then suggested they begin a tutorial and try following the steps.  They were able to get started, but they had a lot of questions and needed more support from me, so we decided to have a small-group meeting on an alternate day to get them started.   The following week, the small group met on Monday and I was able to better support them in completing levels of their chosen TouchDevelop tutorial.  During our regular club meeting on Wednesday, many students chose to continue working on their tutorials (which went much better now that they’d had some support to get started.) 

The following Monday, I was surprised to see grade 5s start arriving in my classroom at lunchtime.  The first one asked “Are we working on TouchDevelop with you again today?” to which I replied “I hadn’t planned on it… did you want to work on TouchDevelop today?”  I got a firm “Yes!” Apparently, the students involved had been discussing it all morning and were eager to get back to work on their tutorials.  During this second (somewhat impromptu) meeting, I was able to help students login so that their progress would be saved and we also learned how to rename tutorials so we could keep track of who the work belonged to even though we were sharing a login.  One student even completed and published his first project!  It was exciting to see a finished project and to share it online!  Again that Wednesday, most of the students chose to continue their tutorials during our regular coding club meeting.  Another group was able to publish their finished work.  I think we’ve started something big here.   Many students joined coding club with the idea of creating games or apps and I think that TouchDevelop has the capabilities to help us meet that goal!

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