Cracking the Code of Coding

“Often, computers and technology are the reason students miss out on certain “life skills” (like making eye contact), however, with coding, technology gives them the ‘life skill’ of problem solving and critical thinking. What could be better than that?”

I really enjoyed playing around with Hour of Code. The tutorial-feel and step-by-step process made it easy to follow and scaffolded the coding experience nicely. At first, the idea seemed simple: You make the bird flap when you click the mouse. To do this, you literally just have to drag the “Flap” icon over to the “Click Mouse” icon. Simple.

However, I quickly learned on Scratch.mit.edu that the tools learned on Hour of Code are actually essential in creating your own code. No matter how simple it seems, stick with it because you are moreso developing the logic that comes along with coding. It really boils down to figuring out how to manipulate the different effects/actions to make the icon or game do what you want it to do. And that is not always easy.

I got my students to log on to Hour of Code on Friday afternoon as a fun little activity after our field trip. They really enjoyed the experience and didn’t require much of a lesson. I knew they would take to it quickly, so I took the approach of “explore on your own and if you have a question, I am here to help.” There were virtually no questions.

I had them start off with Hour of Code, as it seems to be the place to learn and acquire the skills before creating your own project. The students who passed at least one tutorial were then given the green light to go to Scrath.mit.edu. Again, they took to it very quickly, however, I think this was largely due to Hour of Code. In my short experience, the two go hand-in-hand, with one acting as a stepping stone for the other.

Coding is important because it encourages students to engage fully with the behind-the-scenes aspects of what they see on the computer. It forces them to think critically and to question why the computer reacts the way it does when we click certain keys, etc. When something doesn’t work the way it should in their coding creation (game, etc.), they have to use problem solving skills. This is hard to teach and coding lends itself well to developing a lot of these basic life skills that we hope our students pick up. Often, computers and technology are the reason students miss out on certain “life skills” (like making eye contact), however, with coding, technology gives them the “life skill” of problem solving and critical thinking. What could be better than that? In addition, students often view coding as just “gaming,” which works in your favour in terms of student engagement. True learning occurs when students are having fun.

Personally, I’d like to start exploring coding with actual text. For the moment, however, I’d like to start developing a coding unit for in the classroom, which includes Makey Makey. This test-run yesterday went so well, that I can’t see what happens when I have a well-developed unit to work with. Updates to come.

2 thoughts on “Cracking the Code of Coding

  1. That is really cool you had the opportunity to try it out on your class. Had you ever done anything to do with coding with them before? I look forward to reading about using makey makey in the classroom.

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    1. Nope — first time! But they really did jump in head first which made things so much easier! I think the whole idea of coding is fascinating to them/enough of a selling point to create a sense of independence/engagement while working.

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