Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Learn To Code: Resources for Your Coding Program (for every classroom teacher!)

*This post is inspired by Code in Every Class, an EdTechTeam Press publication written by author-educators Kevin Brookhouser and Ria Megnin. You can read my overview of the book. The resources below are not comprehensive, and I have added some of my own. See the resource section of the book for much more. For teachers interested in learning to code themselves, or for the very keen student, check out these resources. A Google Docs version of this post is available.

But first, a rationale...

Why Code? Jason Wik, of Maker Toolset, sums it up nicely. "Students should leverage technology, not just consume information. We want students to change how they think of themselves, becoming active digital creators of the physical world around them." This is at the heart of how coding will empower young people. See Jason in a TED Talk on the maker movement in schools, with Gabriel Wilkes, and how to get a project started. In our conversation, Jason also suggested that simple definitions are incomplete, saying that “code is the underlying language that connects everything around us. Schools should be teaching the importance of code beyond just apps and games, to open their eyes to the revolution of physical computing, robotics, IoT, and digital fabrication happening all around them.”

How Do I Get Started? When starting your own coding program, be it a club or in your own class, take some time to have a look through the different options available to you. There are many choices for developing a program, be it using a single curriculum/lesson guide on offer, or a blend that works for your club. Consider exploring the different programs with your students if age-appropriate. These coding programs are not just for educators. Parents can also work with their children at home, learning how to code together - a great family activity!

You may want to begin your journey with Google’s introductory level, self-paced course Computational Thinking for Educators to give yourself a foundation in some of the concepts involved with coding, such as, exploring algorithms, finding patterns, developing algorithms, and applying computational thinking to a lesson plan developed by you. However, each of the programs below will have online guidance.

Free & Paid Coding Programs Resources, Descriptions and Links


CS First by Google. CS First is a free program that increases student access and exposure to computer science (CS) education through after-school, in-school, and summer programs. All clubs are run by teachers and/or community volunteers.”

Consider following up or extending learning with Exploring Computational Thinking (ECT), “a curated collection of lesson plans, videos, and other resources on computational thinking (CT)”. It builds upon CS First.

Swift Coding by Apple. "Swift is a robust and intuitive programming language created by Apple for building apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. It’s designed to give developers more freedom than ever. Swift is easy to use and open source, so anyone with an idea can create something incredible." Free, but you will need a newer version of iPad.

Code.org is from the organizers of Hour of Code and a fully recognized 501c non-profit organization. Free curricula for ES, MS and HS are offered, with additional resources in tutorial videos, an online support community, and regional partners. Students can learn alone or in a classroom environment. Have a look at the additional 20-hour, age-appropriate courses from Code Studio.Code.org is also an advocate for social justice, reaching out to all communities. There is even a feature to find third-party resources and local computer science classes or clubs. (it says “US only” but when I searched Nova Scotia, Canada I found three)

CoderDojo. A “global network of free computer programming clubs for young people.” Anyone aged 7 - 17 can join and attend a Dojo and learn to code. These are brick and mortar clubs with adults acting as mentors. Some equipment is necessary, but the resources are free.

Code Monkey. A “fun and educational game environment where students learn to code in a real programming language, no previous experience needed.” Has a course ready to follow and is based on games.

Girls Who Code is “a national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.”

Python is an open source programming language that is widely used for website, web apps, and scientific computing. (see this 4-minute YouTube video explaining Python)  Python provides a beginners guide.

Pencil Code. An open source “collaborative programming site for drawing art, playing music, and creating games. It is also a place to experiment with mathematical functions, geometry, graphing, web pages, simulations, and algorithms. Programs are open for all to see and copy.” Has an online guide, discussion forum, and tutorials. Includes an online guide and teacher’s manual.

Scratch. With this MIT program, students can “code their own interactive stories, animations, and games. In the process, they learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for everyone in today’s society.” Scratch is a widely popular coding program used in schools, museums, and community centers. Includes tips and curriculum guides. Teacher accounts can be made for students. See this TED Talk on Scratch.

Hopscotch. A programming software that is easy to learn for kids, giving them a foundation in coding. Has video tutorials, a coding curriculum, and support forum. Free for iPhone and iPad.

Lightbot. Children solve puzzles using programming logic. Ages 4-8 and 9 and up. Has a variety of devices to work with.

Monster Coding. Incorporates math and shapes, with lessons in vocabulary essential to programming. Has a keyboarding piece and tutorial videos.


And for a bit of play...

Code Academy wants to change the face of education, acknowledging that curriculum today doesn’t reflect the economy. Courses are varied, including making websites, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and much more.

Have fun directly from the landing page of Code Monster. Just follow the instructions in the monster’s speech bubble as you move along. A quick introduction to code.

Play with the Chrome Music Lab, an open source platform which employs coding as children explore how music works.


Paid Resources (some with Bots or Boards)

RaspberryPi. Small, single-board “low-cost, high-performance computers that people use to learn, solve problems and have fun.” It includes outreach and education to help more people access computing and digital making, with some free resources.

Sphero. Incorporates robotics and technology with collaborative STEAM activities. The “world's first app-enabled robotic ball and a sophisticated companion for your smartphone or tablet. Learn, play, and explore with this awesome robot.” Includes other robots like Spiderman and BB-8 from Star Wars. Students learn to code the movements of the robots and guide them with their devices.

Cubetto "is a cross-curricular early learning resource that helps young learners develop coding skills, problem-solving, communication, and creativity through adventure and hands-on play.” Includes user manuals, lessons plans, and tutorials.

Code Avengers. Includes lesson plans, teacher training, gamified learning and projects for the “real world”. Has courses in HTML & CSS, Python, Web Development, Design, and more. Kids learn to build apps, games, and websites. Camps are hosted all over the world.

Code Monster. Curriculum and courses. “CodeMonster is about fundamental. Without fundamental we cannot build anything upon it. Our curriculum always start with the basic and will quickly accelerate to the required level. Kids coding must have the element of fun.”

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