Introducing Elementary Computer Science Standards!

Computer Science has a problem. In the past few years, educators have been hoodwinked by flashy games and deceptive messaging into believing that students could be “taught to code” by letting their students play a game for an hour. Unfortunately, like in every other subject, this isn’t the case. No, you cannot teach your students computer science with just a game.

When coding was first introduced a few years ago, a self-driven, easy to use game was necessary. It needed to be introduced in a quick way for teachers without any previous CS knowledge to be able to fit it into their lessons. However, over the past few years, things have changed. Over 350 MILLION people have written a ‘line of code’ and millions of teachers have seen the impact CS can have. Computer Science is the single most important topic being taught to the youth of the world today. So why isn’t it being taught consistently?

At Kodable, we have unprecedented influence on how computer science is being taught in schools. We have been used in over half of the elementary schools in the United States, and are the most widely used elementary programming curriculum in the world. Which is why it is so discouraging to hear so many teachers tell us that an hour of coding in December is enough or ‘We just let them play a couple free coding games, we didn’t really want to set up a class or teach a lesson.’ Playing a coding game without structured instruction completely misses so many of the benefits computer science education offers, and students are being failed in the process.

More girls are not going to be encouraged to code just from a game. Without the instruction and encouragement of a teacher, students will self-select for computer science the same as before, and we will end up with the same demographically stunted, male dominated workforce we have now.

So, we’ve decided to do something about it. Today, we’re taking a stand for Computer Science.

Laying the ground work for smarter CS Instruction

First, I’m proud to introduce one of the world’s first Elementary Computer Science Standards. Led by our own Head of Curriculum – Brie Gray, the K-12 CS Framework (2016) guided the writing and development process before the standards went through multiple reviews by Kodable’s Curriculum Advisory Board. The board consisted of a team of educators from Stanford, Teach for America, and school districts around the country, we believe this is the first step to teaching computer science the right way.

Following the S.M.A.R.T methodology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based), these computer science standards provide a roadmap for educators to teach CS with measurable student outcomes. It is important to note that these standards are not specific to Kodable. While over the next few weeks, we will be revamping our entire product around these standards, educators are free to use any coding program they would like with these standards. The most important thing is always the student, and if Kodable does not fit with a certain school, we don’t want the student to be left out.

While there are some drafts currently available for K-12 that include a limited K-5 set of computer science standards, they are more of an outline or framework than comprehensive standards. The Elementary Computer Science Standards are by far the most comprehensive available, including a wide variety of concepts not addressed by others such as social emotional learning and communication skills. Our standards focus on developing the whole student, and really try to bring out all of the benefits that come with learning computer science, not just their ‘coding ability’.

Get-the-computer-science-standards
Download your copy of the computer science standards

Focus on developing the whole student

Second, The Kodable K-5 Computer Science standards were written to provide teachers with a roadmap for developing the whole student through a computer science education. The strands within the standards are comprehensive and include elements beyond programming concepts (e.g., social emotional learning, programming impact, ESL). Our goal is to reach ALL students and see computer science become part of a complete elementary education.

It has always been our mission to make programming and computer science accessible to all students and educators. Since the beginning of Kodable, we have consistently heard how teaching students to code has brought about growth in many other areas. Students who normally didn’t engage with their peers began to open up and lead the class in programming. ESL students began to overcome tough language barriers through strengthened perseverance. Students struggling in math or testing improved their performance by practicing their problem solving skills in programming.

The Computer Science Standards focus on more than just programming and critical thinking because CS teaches more than just that. Computer science expands to all areas of learning, so you can now definitively say to your administrators that integrating computer science will help your students beyond just problem solving. Now you can tech with confidence knowing their growth can be measured, connected back to programming, and most importantly, leave a lasting impact.

What does this mean for Kodable?

Lastly, we will be requiring all teachers to create a Kodable account and set up their classes to use Kodable. It will also no longer be possible to use Kodable as just a game. Students simply will not achieve mastery in any standard without at least one off-screen lesson being taught, whether they are using Kodable or any other tool, and we feel our product should reflect that reality.

This decision was not made lightly. We understand how strapped for time teachers already are in the classroom, and will be making a number of improvements, such as QR code and picture based login, to preserve teachers’ already limited time. You can now be wholly focused on actual instruction, and not class setup or iPad management.

We know this will not work for everyone, and luckily there are plenty of other quick-start coding products that do not wish to adopt this type of structured learning environment; some programming education is always better than none! But again, the student is always the top priority for every educator, including ourselves, and we feel like this is the best way to create a structured environment that promotes actual student mastery of concepts, not just a fun game to play.

This is an exciting time for computer science, and for Kodable! Every educator we have given a ‘sneak peek’ at our computer science standards has been incredibly excited, and we know you will love them too. As eager as we are to get them to you, we are even more eager to hear your feedback! You can always reach us at our website – www.kodable.com, or by emailing support at support@kodable.com if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here to help!

4 Earth Day Activities to Empower Your Students

Earth Day is quickly approaching. We can all take advantage of this chance to highlight what it truly means to take care of our planet.  Particularly in a time where every day seems to bring a new challenge for the human race.

There’s something extra special about seeing our students excel as human beings as well as academically. The proudest memories I had as a teacher go far beyond my students growing 3 grade levels in reading in one year. They include the not-so-small moments when I saw my students becoming awesome people.

Empowering our students to shine outside of the classroom is essential. It is also an excellent application of the critical thinking and problem-solving mindset we work so hard to cultivate. 

What on EARTH does this have to do with coding?

Computer Science is a living example of the 4 Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity). Coding gives limitless opportunity to innovate for the Earth’s well-being. Below are some tips to get students using their skill sets on Earth’s big day:

Share stories of inspirational (kid!) innovators.

This is a great way to cover some Common Core ELA standards, depending on what grade(s) you teach! Have students research and present on green energy and green technology inventions- we particular enjoy some of these kid inventor’s ideas.

If you’re up for renting or purchasing, check out the Code Girl documentary with a wide range of inspiring ideas to better Earth and humanity.

Use current events to encourage and inspire.

Share relevant issues that our Earth faces, tastefully presenting global issues that we can work together to solve in small (or big!) ways.

Some great places for kid-friendly current events are here and here. The National Education Association also has awesome lesson plans and activities that address current issues.

Give students a challenge!

Present an issue that Earthlings face today (one your students can understand and think critically about). Challenge students to apply the 4 Cs to come up with a creative solution—let them run with it! For Kodable’s Earth Day coding challenge, get our lesson plans and activities!

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Lower Elementary Earth Day lesson (k-2)3
Upper Elementary Earth Day lesson (3-5)

Encourage teamwork and unity.

Caring for our planet is a responsibility we all share equally; one that holds us together despite our differences. As we look to better our planet, there is nothing more important than each of us sharing our talents and ideas in a productive way. Imagine what we can do by sharing, listening, and learning from each other? Try some of these awesome Scholastic team builders to promote working together on Earth Day and every day. “Recycled Goods” is great for PBL on Earth Day!

 

Whatever you decide to do on Friday, Aprill 22nd  to celebrate our planet with your students, we THANK YOU for equipping the future with humans who will have the skills needed to continue to innovate, invent, and take us for many more wild trips around the sun.
We want to hear and share about your Earth Day festivities! Send pictures, artwork, and activity ideas to 
brie@kodable.com.

 

 

 

 

Testing + Coding: How do they fit? #KidsCanCode Chat 4/12/16

Spring has sprung and #KidsCanCode is back for some more great conversations about computer science.  This week we discussed how programming education can fit in with your testing schedule. Take a break from the dull week of assessment with some unplugged fun or use computer science as a way to prep the brain. Here are some tips from the #KidsCanCode community!

Teacher of the Week: Kaye Rueschhoff

Inspired by parents who were teachers, 21 year teaching veteran Kaye Rueschhoff has worked relentlessly to bring herself up to speed in the constantly evolving digital world. Kaye recently shared with us some amazing ways she’s integrating coding across content areas, and this week we are honored to feature her as our Teacher of the Week!  Kaye TOW

Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little about your teaching background and how technology has worked its way into what you do?

I am the daughter of retired teachers so education has been a huge part of my life.  I grew up in a small Missouri town where the school was the center of our world.  When I went away to college, teaching was not my first career choice.  However, after many detours and 20 years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Technology has been an evolution for me. Our district became a “bring your own device” school a few years ago and I decided to learn everything I could about the devices and the technology in the world to support them.  I wanted my students to have the most cutting edge information and curriculum support possible, which meant that I had to learn everything I could and very quickly. I have attended every workshop, conference, and professional development opportunity possible in order to make that happen.

 What do you love most about teaching?

I have spent most of my teaching career as a first grade educator.  I love the evolution that happens with 6 and 7 year old children as they learn to read and experience many new things and topics for the first time. The challenge of finding the best way to teach and reach each individual student is one I take very seriously.  I love learning how they learn and then adapting my teaching style in order to ensure their success.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

Coding and computer skills is the world of these students, especially first graders.  They don’t know a world without these devices.  It is very important for them to know how the devices work in order to problem solve how to fix errors and navigate situations when the software or device does not work correctly. Many of the careers and future opportunities for current students have not even been invented yet, but coding and computer science skills will always be an asset for these children.kaye TOW kids

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding in your classroom?

I have students in my class this year that have parents that don’t speak English at home.  These students struggle with every other subject in school and often feel defeated.  They are smart kids that just don’t get the practice in English needed to keep up with their peers. Coding is something that they are successful with.  They are the leaders and helpers during our computer science time and anytime we are using technology.  This is a universal language that builds self-esteem for these kids and helps them learn in all of the other subject areas.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

My administration supports this type of learning as long as I integrate it with other subject areas and show learning growth.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

I would like to learn to code on my own.  I have started several coding classes, but it requires much more time than I can give.  When I was able to take classes, however, I was a better teacher because it helped me understand some of the foundation behind the coding programs and the language used. For my career, my dream would be to be part of a computer science school in our school district.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

When I am not at school, I am usually in the gym.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?KAYE TOW kid

I want these students to never stop learning. I want them to realize that boredom is a choice and there is always something new to discover.  Even though we can find out most everything we need to know on the internet, there is always something to be gained from human interaction and discussion.  Ideas are powerful and should be used to good.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching?

I love to learn about technology and new gadgets. I LOVE sports and watch football, hockey, and baseball. I am in the gym or Zumba class daily.  Shopping is my sport.

Teacher of the Week: Melika Panneri

Our Teacher of the Week caught our eye in a news feature on the amazing work that she’s doing for The Wilson School. We were lucky enough to catch up with Melika Panneri and learn more about how she took coding from a 6th grade capstone project and built a technology program that prepares younger students for complex projects in later grades.  MELIKA_3-1

What do you love most about teaching?

I love that every day is a new day and there’s always something new to learn. Kids say what they think and that’s refreshing. I love seeing kids figure things out on their own and apply it to life.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn how to code and develop 21st century technology skills?

Coding is about challenges and problems and asks for kids to deal with it- it’s not just math and science. Kids grow their tolerance for frustration when they hit a wall and can’t figure something out.  Jobs will eventually need a background in computer science, whether you’re a programmer or not, and exposing kids to coding prepares them for that.

What is one of the most exciting things you have seen happen with coding at your school?

I started Think Camp this summer and I ran a session on creative coding. I  have never seen kids that excited in my life. We used a variety of coding options and tools, but the entire time kids were excited beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I think if they could have exploded, they would have! IMG_0481

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school?

Getting other teachers to see the value in it is always challenging and talking about it is not enough. Once people see students learning it and watch me teach they start to understand and want to be a part of it. I have an ELA teacher who works with me to integrate ELA with coding. We did a coding project with 5th graders on explaining idioms to the world. An example was the idiom, “you crack me up.” A student created this scence, with an egg cracking and laughing, and he coded every bit himself. It’s a challenge showing that coding is not just science or math.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

I’d like to get into more complicated possibilities for 5th and 6th graders. I learn a little bit more every year, and if I keep l learning I’ll be able to help kids dive deeper. I started them in 2nd grade and now they’re coming in with projects they’ve made over the weekend, things they have built over the summer. They want more and I want to be able to teach them and learn from them.

We have to ask: How do you make time to take care of yourself during the school year?

I’ve learned to get a little better at saying no when I’ve hit my limits.

What do you think is the most important thing for kids to take away from their education?

To have the opportunity to have that crazy joyful moment where they’ve figured out what works best for them to learn. Learning how to learn, and being excited about learning.

Lastly, what do you like to do for fun outside of teaching? montavalo

I love to travel when we have the time. My final student teaching was in Australia, and that was incredible. We like to go to New York City and San Francisco when we can.  I also love graphic design and real estate.

Thank you, Melika, for sharing your experiences and perspective with us!

Interested in getting coding off the ground at your school? Register your free teacher account and get started today!Register an Account