Maze Maker Challenge Winners – here at last!

Wow! What an exciting month! We received over 30,000 submissions for our Maze Maker Challenge. We were blown away with the quality of some of the mazes that they made, and there were easily hundreds of mazes that could have won!

After a lot of tough deliberation, we were able to choose our favorite 20 mazes. Then, we let you and your students vote for your 5 favorites.  And vote you did! Over 50,000 votes were cast by students all around the world, and at long last, we have our winners!

Without further ado…your 5 Maze Maker Winners!

 

These 5 mazes will be permanently included in Kodable for millions of kids around the world to play. But that’s not all! Our 20 finalists will all remain playable until June, completely free! So be sure to update Kodable to the latest version and check them all out – we’re sure you’ll be as impressed as we are!

We made some changes: Better pricing for every school

I can barely believe it has been 6 years since we started Kodable. The CS community has been on quite a journey since then, and continues to develop. Today we’re announcing some changes to our plans and pricing to meet schools within  our community where they are. 

Many schools and districts believe in the importance of computer science. The innovators and superstars across the US are making coding happen for their students because they believe it will be one of the most important skills their students will learn. However, that means going though the thoughtful and sometimes long, bureaucratic process of getting approval and finding the time for computer science in the already packed curriculum.  

I spend half of most days talking to educators who want to implement a computer science curriculum in their school, but they need to prove its value to their administrators, co-teachers and school community before they can get the funds to invest in it. On the other hand, in order for Kodable to continue, we have to offer a product of value that schools are willing (and able) to pay for. So today, I am excited to reveal something we have been working hard to test and create for schools: A paid plan that is designed to allow educators to experiment, explore, and demonstrate the value of computer science. 

Why is the game access plan is a great option?

The Kodable Game Access plan gives you access to all of the Kodable game content at a price that makes sense for most US schools right now. You’ll get access to all the student practice levels and some teaching materials so you can demonstrate just how valuable this education is to your students, on your own terms. 

Increase Exploration and Student-Driven Learning 

The game access plan gives you access to all the student practice and creative content. You can decide to open up all levels for your students to explore and work at their own pace, make unlimited mazes, fuzzes and more. Or if you’re ready to do some instruction and want to pace students according to your schedule, you can assign content to them super easily! 

Guidance for Each Concept is Easily Accessible

Explore computer science without the pressure of finding time for lessons every week. You’ll still have access to all the teacher guides which explain each concept, the vocabulary and real world applications. We’ve even included short videos for teachers so you can explain new concepts to students with confidence. 

Easier Transition to a Structured Curriculum

Principals and administrators appreciate when a new instructional tool is implemented with care. Most principals are able and willing to spend a few hundred dollars to prove something is worthwhile and will be used. Then when you and your school are ready, you can make the transition to something more structured with a year or more of practice under your belt. 

What is included with the Game Access Plan? 

Get access to all the student content in Kodable. 

Your entire school has access for the entire year. 

Students can build as many Fuzzes as they want using JavaScript.

Students can design as many mazes as they want and share them with the entire class.

Allow students to play and learn at their own pace or assign content to them as you go. 

Encourage other teachers at your school to teach coding. You can invite them every teacher at your school. 

 

With all the research we’ve done on how teachers are using Kodable, I hope you’ll find this new plan is a good fit for your school. Now is the time to make the case for Kodable in your school. Most administrators are making their budgets now. If you feel like this new option is just right for your school submit it for approval. 

Get an Order Form

Is your school ready for structured computer science? 

If your school is ready for a structured curriculum, we’re still offering our site licenses.However, now you can choose the curriculum package that is just right for your school. Kodable lesson plans cover the foundational skills of coding and work up to JavaScript. You’ll have lesson plans for every step of the journey as well as supplemental lessons covering Math, ELA, Robotics, Social Emotional Learning and more. 

I’m happy to help you decide which option is the best fit for your school. 

Schedule an Appointment

The March Maze Maker CHALLENGE!

Since we released our Maze Maker 9 months ago, we’ve been blown away by the ingenuity and creativity that students have shown in creating almost one million mazes!

We racked our brains at Kodable HQ trying to decide how we could show the world some of your awesome creations, and today we are launching the first annual Maze Maker Challenge! Starting today, kids all over the world will be able to create mazes that have a chance to be permanently included in Kodable!

How it works:

Build  (March 5th – March 30th)

Starting today, teachers can join the Maze Maker Challenge directly from their Kodable Dashboard. Once they join, all Mazes created until March 30th, 2018 will be eligible to participate in the challenge.

Vote (April 2nd – April 15th)

On April 2nd, the Kodable Team will select 20 maze design finalists and release them in the Kodable Game. Students will have two weeks to play and “heart” up to 5 favorite mazes to vote for them

Win! (April 16th)

We will calculate the votes and announce the winners! The 20 mazes will continue to be available until the end of May, and the 5 most a-maze-ing mazes will be eligible to be permanently included as levels in Kodable!

What are you waiting for?Join the Maze Maker Challenge!

We can’t wait to see what your students create!

5 Ways to Blast Back to School with Kodable!

A new year is here! We hope you had a great time chillaxing by the pool.

It’s time for another great school year. Kodable has tons of resources to help you get ready for the new year of teaching coding to your class!

 

Deck out your classroom! 

 

Inspire coding excellence. We have dozens of images, posters, and coloring sheets to decorate your class.

Image pack download ->

“5 Reasons to Teach Coding” Classroom Poster

Fuzz Coloring sheet

Back to School Kit 

All the resources you need to tell your school community about your plans to help your students learn to code are included in this post about “5 Tips for Back to School Night”.

Read the full post here ->

Back to School Webinar

Whether you’re new to Kodable or returning for another year of coding in your classroom, Brie Gray is here to help you have a successful launch! Brie walks you through setting up your classes, teaching your first lesson, assigning content to your students, as well as recapping some improvements we made over the past year.

3 Back to School Lesson Plans

The wise and wonderful Brie Gray prepared three lesson plans specifically for introducing your students to your classroom and to prepare them for your management style.

Exploring Digital Citizenship with Coding

K-2 Back to School Procedures Mini-lesson

3-5  Culture Team Builders + Code

Tools to Share with Parents

Parents are an important part of your classroom culture. Help them understand what their child is learning and why it is important!

Send home a letter that tells them all about how you’ll be teaching their child to code. Edit it however you like! Letter to Parents ->

Let your students continue learning at home. You can print instructions for them to access Kodable at home. Parent Instructions ->

When students master a concept, share the celebration with their biggest cheerleaders! Send home a snazzy certificate. Just go to the current unit you’re teaching and click Print Student Certificates ->

Beginning with Robotics!

Often the best way to introduce new computer science concepts to students is with tangible examples. The Kodable curriculum is full of such lessons and examples. Today we’re excited to be able to expand our curriculum with a truly tangible branch of computer science: robotics!

 

Why robotics is important

We often hear of teachers combining Kodable with a unit on robotics because it allows kids to explore functional hardware while learning about the more abstract concepts behind it all. Especially in lower elementary, kiddos start thinking about the world around them. Kodable Director of Curriculum, Brie Gray says, “Robotics gives students an opportunity to question how things work and dig deeply into the role individuals can play in creating, controlling, and working with machines.”

 

Kodable does robots!

Since we’re new to the world of robots, The Kodable team collaborated with Wonder Workshop to come up with a style of learning both teams felt would give teachers and students the strongest introduction. Brie’s goal was to, “help teachers see how easy it is to teach robotics and programming, separately and together! Both of these areas can easily be integrated into everyday life, and into core classroom subject areas.”

Robots work off of the same logic as computers and software. There are core constructs to the code used to control them.  In many ways, the lessons are reinforcing concepts students learn in other units of Kodable. The lesson structure and style follows the same three part (I do, we do, you do) model found in the rest of Kodable, but now there’s a physical object involved! The lessons still have independent practice on-screen for students, but include guided practice in Wonder Workshop’s Blockly app, and of course, Dash!

The robotics unit covers hardware and software, sequence, algorithms, loops, events, and functions. Followed by a four session (minimum) project focused on Design Thinking, which Brie says, “I honestly would love to participate in myself!” The priority is students learn while having fun and experience learning in a setting that allows them to ask questions, be wrong sometimes, try new things, and work together.

Robotics naturally lends itself to inquiry based learning, projects, and Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a method of minimizing the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging users through a series of prototypes to learn, test, and creatively refine concepts. Design thinking is a process we use daily at Kodable and I’m sure you follow in your own life as well.  The four part assessment encourages design thinking to foster and encourage creativity and collaboration in the classroom and the real world.

 

You don’t need robotics experience to get started!

Even if you have zero programming or robot knowledge, you still have all the information and materials needed to teach the lessons. Everything you need is included! The lessons are scripted, so Brie suggests, “read right off them if needed, or use them as a template for building your own if you find it doesn’t fit your style!” Most of this is new to everyone, so don’t be afraid to just dive in and learn along with your students! You’ll be rewarded with hands on engagement and a lot of learning.

4 Tips to Encourage Summer Programming

The school year is winding down, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to. Kids who continue learning through the summer see learning benefits for up to two years afterward. You can help your students continue to grow as learners by encouraging them to continue programming at home. Here are a few quick and easy tips!

1. Send home Kodable log in details for parents.

Parents will be looking for educational programs to keep their kiddos occupied this summer. You can easily print log in instructions for all your students and send home instructions for parents to facilitate more programming!

2. Start a Summer Coding Challenge

Challenge your students to set their own learning goal for the summer! Students will share something they learned this year and something they want to learn over the summer. They will set a goal for the number of programs they want to write and can even track their progress to share with their friends next year!

3. Celebrate a year of learning with certificates for students

Recognize your students’ achievements with a certificate they can take home. Proud learners love showing off their skills! Encourage them to keep learning with positive reinforcement.

4. Open next year’s concepts for early practice.

Get students excited for next school year by letting them explore the concepts they’ll be learning next year. You can easily adjust the grade level on your classes, so they’ll have access to the next set of units without moving too far ahead. Early access will give them a point of reference when you’re teaching the concepts next year!

Keep up all the great work and enjoy a fun and well earned summer vacation!

via GIPHY

 

Let’s Give Computer Science to 100 Schools!

At Kodable, we believe in the power of computer science. Not only the ability it gives students to be successful in the world, but in the power it has to change the world. Computer Science is a truly transformative subject. Never before has something existed with such an ability to create value from nothing. You could build the first versions of Facebook on a $30 Craigslist laptop in a Starbucks! As of the writing of this article, Facebook is worth a little over $400 BILLION dollars.

However, as a for-profit company, we are faced with the reality that some of the schools who could use Kodable most, simply do not have the means to afford it. There are a lot of great free options available as introductions, but they fall short of providing the well-rounded education a child would need to really excel in computer science.

Students in underserved communities face a myriad of challenges that have a negative effect on academic achievement. Students who are already performing behind their peers are now at risk to fall even farther behind without equal access to Computer Science. Computer Science education improves critical thinking and problem solving skills, which translate across content areas and to life outside the classroom.

The options for these schools are less than optimal. Grant processes are long and tedious, and not all schools have the ability to ask parents or donors for financial support. Now, faced with the realities of educational budget cuts in the United States, the problem is only going to get worse. We’ve always believed EVERY student deserves the opportunity to learn to code. So today we’re going to do our part to make it happen.

 

GiveCS2What are we doing about it?

I’m incredibly happy to announce the Kodable for Everyone Initiative. In order to raise awareness for the impact Computer Science can have in the lives of our nation’s children, we want to give Kodable to 100 schools in underserved communities.

For every Parent purchase of Kodable, 30% of the proceeds will be donated toward one year of Kodable for a school.

For every site license purchase, we will donate a year of Kodable to an underserved school.

 

How can you help?  

You can help make computer science education happen by sponsoring Kodable for a school in an underserved community. Give as little as $1. Every bit helps. 

For every $1000 donated, we will give the entire Kodable curriculum, free of charge, to one school in need.

Kodable is used all over the world, so your donation could go to someone anywhere around the globe – from the United States to Haiti to Vietnam. You can make a difference.

  • Sponsors will receive two BRAND NEW Kodable Fuzzes only available to donors – adaFuzz and turingFuzz. These commemorate two iconic figures in computer science – Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing.
  • You’ll also receive updates on the school your donation is benefiting.

LimitedEdition

Can Computer Science benefit your school?

We will be selecting schools as we meet each $1,000 milestone. Schools with financial hardship, below proficient test scores, large ESL student populations, or a focus on inquiry goals will be highly considered. We’re looking to help schools with a passion for STEM and Computer Science as an innovative way to improve the lives of their students.  

Apply Here

New Computer Science Standards Reporting and Assignments

In January we announced our plan to focus on teaching computer science with intention. We released a comprehensive set of Computer Science standards to aid schools looking to focus their instruction, as well as required a class to use Kodable. All of this so you can track what your students are learning. Today is the next phase of this transition!

New tools to teach CS with intention!

Pace your lessons and student content by grade

Not every computer science concept is appropriate for a kindergartener. They simply are not ready to learn about functions or object oriented programming. Fifth-grade students don’t need to spend 5 weeks learning about sequence, but do need a quick study of foundational concepts before learning object oriented programming.

Now, when you create a class in Kodable, you can assign a grade to it. This will automatically show you the appropriate pacing for your students. You’ll be able to see exactly what they should be learning and see the lesson plan to teach it. When your students are ready to move on to the next grade, simply change their grade level to modify the pacing.
https://gyazo.com/ca604f279a044e7996743ec3f4536ec1

Assign practice levels to your students 

When teaching, it is crucial that your students are getting time to practice the skills covered in your most recent lesson. Including math equations, spelling practice, and reading new words. The same is true for computer science. Now, you’ll be able to assign students the practice levels that accompany your most recent lesson. When you assign levels, they will automatically appear on student devices. Students will be able to practice on any device using their class code, then Kodable will stop them from moving beyond what has been assigned. This gives you great control to make sure students are retaining the new concepts taught.
https://gyazo.com/6a49a7fdd805d4268a0652be23c59c00

Monitor student progress learning important standards 

Finally, the most exciting change in the coming update, is the ability to track what computer science standards students are learning. Our goal is to help you help your students learn to code. Now, you (and your administrator) can see exactly what they’re learning on their journey. Kodable will report their progress on the computer science standards associated with the lessons you’ve been teaching and the levels they’re completing.

Screenshot 2017-03-12 17.07.05

When?? And what to expect in the coming months!

These features will be available to new Kodable educators starting this week! For existing educators, you’ll be able to migrate over the coming month. You’ll be able to easily sort all your classes and tell Kodable where to begin with lesson plans for each class. The migration tools will be released this week, and migration will take less than five minutes to complete. You will have one month to migrate your classes. If you do not migrate during the migration period, your Kodable account will be automatically converted to the new format.

Once you migrate your classes and set their grade, you’ll be able to assign levels to classes. This means they will only see the levels you’ve assigned them. This gives you complete control over their pacing and progress in Kodable. When you’re ready for them to move on to the next set of practice levels, simply assign them from your teacher dashboard.

This is the first of our gradual rollout of standards reporting. You’ll be getting more insights into what your kids are learning as we align Kodable to the computer science standards and begin to add assessment tools. These tools include more game based instruction aids, as well as formative and summative assessments. By the start of the 2017-2018 school year, you’ll know what computer science standards are being mastered, where students need more practice and Kodable will be able to give suggestions on how to review with them.

We’re thrilled to make teaching elementary computer science a smooth and enjoyable endeavor as well as adding legitimacy to the instruction the community of dedicated teachers have been working so hard to develop over the past several years.

via GIPHY

Our perspective on “The Gender Gap”

Recently, we announced our Elementary Computer Science Standardsand I made the following statement:

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.

This apparently angered one of our readers, who accused us of being an “entire company is full of backwards leftists who are trying to encourage girls instead of boys.” He went on to articulate that a male-dominated workforce was not a problem.  Even though this person has probably never even used our product, I saw this as an opportunity to really articulate our view on the gender gap in computer science. I have gone in to more detail below in the hopes that it can help others engaged in this unfortunate debate around the country and around the world:


Say you have an array of 100 strings, 49 of which are the letter “M” and 51 of which are the letter “F”. You need to write a program to grab 10 objects out of this array at random, ignoring the value of the string. You run this program, and every time you do it pulls 8 “M”s and 2 “F”s. You run it 50 times, and every time get the same results.

There’s one of two problems. Either

  1. You wrote the program to intentionally discriminate against “F” (I hope not)
  2. You have a bug in your code.

This is what’s happening in computer science right now. The population of the United States is 51% female, and the population in computer science is less than 20%. (1)

The “bug” in computer science can be seen by simply walking down the isle in any toy store in America. Boys are funneled to Legos and blocks, girls are funneled to rows of bright pink dolls. From the time we are born, children are expected to fit into gender and social norms.

Sayings like, “Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of,” and “Boys will be boys,” are a prime example of such. We expect boys and girls to fit into these roles defined by society, our parents, and our education. Until women entered the workforce, the roles were strict and quite defined.

Since the 1960’s, women’s workforce equality has been gradually increasing. Women made up 52% of the workforce in 2014. (2) However, we still have a long way to go. Women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes (3), childcare is still a major issue for women in the workforce, and since 1984, the number of women learning about computer science and STEM has dropped.

In 1984, women accounted for 37% of CS undergraduates, while in 2011, they made up only 17%. Studies indicate our defined role for a computer scientist has caused much of this decline. Marketing messages depict men as owners of personal computers and gadgets. Girls are ALREADY being artificially encouraged NOT to code before they can make the choice themselves!

I’m fundamentally against targeting ANY group specifically, and I’ve taken great pains to make sure my company never does that. We regularly speak with both boys and girls to ensure Kodable is appealing to both of them. We were especially careful in the development of our upper elementary content, because this is when kids start to become aware of social norms and expectations. Not only does talking with kids help us bridge the gender gap, but they have awesome ideas like rainbow geysers and better, kid-friendly terminology for concepts.

I want to include EVERYONE in computer science. When we started Kodable, my co-founder Grechen Huebner and I looked around at what was available for kids to learn to code. She was not pleased with the selection for girls. Most of the tools and programs available we’re quite “boyish”. Games played into what we think appeals to boys through dark color pallets and a logical progression without much emphasis on narrative. Grechen and I set out to make something that would teach and engage all students.

Since the start of Kodable, we have received criticism for many things, including targeting boys or girls over the other. However, we’re thrilled that the gender percentages of Kodable users reflect the population of men and women. We have just over 50% female users. We’re still meeting our goal of teaching computer science in a way that appeals to both genders equally. The Kodable team includes 3 women and 2 men.

Equal access to quality education is something very near and dear to our team’s heart, and it will continue to shape the way we build and market our product.

All of this comes with the caveat that you actually believe that boys and girls are equally capable of becoming programmers. Because if you don’t, I honestly don’t want you using my product anyway.


Sources:

  1. http://www.computerscience.org/resources/women-in-computer-science/
  2. https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook/archive/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2015.pdf
  3. http://www.americasjobexchange.com/career-advice/women-and-equality

12 Questions on Coding and Startups at Kodable

A couple months ago, one of our longest-tenured Kodable users sent me an email for a student in her class. She wanted to learn more about computer science, problem solving, and startups, and had a few questions she wanted to ask me. I wanted to share my answers with the rest of the coding community in the hopes that they might help other young learners out there 🙂

Student Q: How do you use your programming skills to be a better problem solver?

Jon’s Answer: Programming is nothing more than a problem that you have to solve with code! When you program, you learn very quickly that the best way to solve a problem is to break things down into a series of smaller problems that are much easier to solve. The same is true for problems that you face in your everyday life. If your room is messy, its easiest just to get started by picking up one thing and putting it away than staring at the room trying to figure out how you’re going to clean up this huge mess!

Student Q: What steps do you follow when you are problem solving?

Jon’s Answer: When I program, I have to break everything down into a sequence of smaller tasks. That lets me think about the problem in smaller “chunks” instead of being overwhelmed by some huge programming project. After I’ve broken down the problem into a series of tasks I have to complete, then I just start with the first one! Every time I complete a task, I then stop and make sure that I did it correctly, and I’m still moving towards the goal I set out for myself when I started. After I’ve completed all of the tasks, I remember what my original goal was and make sure that it was accomplished.

Student Q: How does computational thinking help us understand our world and solve problems?

Jon’s Answer: I started learning how to program when I was 6, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I learned to think of everything in terms of ‘if I do this, then that will happen’. This was so important! It helped me be more successful in everything I did, because I always thought about the effects of my actions before I did them. This helped everywhere from taking math tests to troubleshooting when my wifi wasn’t working. Also, computers are everywhere! Computers think computationally (obviously), and if you understand how they ‘think,’ it’ll be much easier or you to work with them.

Student Q: Which one of the problem solving steps is your favorite/ easy for you?

Jon’s Answer: I like breaking a big problem into smaller tasks. Its like a strategy! You get to take this big complicated problem and make it much more straightforward.

Student Q: Which step is your least favorite/ hardest for you?

Jon’s Answer: I enjoy completing tasks, so don’t always like stopping after every task and making sure that I’m moving towards the right goal – I just want to keep going! But this is very, very important. You can get so caught up in each task that you can end up moving in the complete wrong direction. Before you’ve noticed, you could have spent two or three hours working on the wrong problem, and thats never fun.

Student Q: Is feedback helpful when you are coming up with solutions?

Jon’s Answer: Of course! Its always helpful to get a second set of eyes on a problem you’re working on – especially if you’ve been working on it for a long time. You just want to make sure that you accurately explain the problem to whoever is giving you feedback, or they could give you the answer to a different problem!

Student Q: What do you do to plan/ prepare your solution to a problem?

Jon’s Answer: I try to map out everything I’m going to do in a set of easily completable tasks. It is very important not to make these tasks too big, you should find things that can be done relatively quickly. Then I order them so I know which tasks I need to complete first, second, and so on.

Student Q: What are some ways to reflect or evaluate when you solve a problem?

Jon’s Answer: You should always know what you were trying to do when you solve a problem. Ideally, this means that you clearly defined what ‘finished’ was before you even started solving the problem, that way you can easily determine if you accomplished your goal. Its also a good idea to look at your problem solving process and find areas you can improve next time. Did you spend too long in one area? Could you have skipped a step? Did you keep finding things to do that you hadn’t planned for? This kind of experience is incredibly valuable to becoming a better problem solver.

Student Q: Why do you think it is necessary to ask questions before you find a solution to the problem?

Jon’s Answer: Nobody knows everything, and even if you think you have all of the answers you might not! The only way to really know if you’re going about solving the problem correctly is if you ask questions. Sometimes there are details that you might have overlooked, or you might have misunderstood a part of the problem.

Student Q: Do you think that it is essential to follow a process when problem solving?

Jon’s Answer: Instead of a “process,” I think that it is essential to have a “problem-solving game plan.” I used to play football, and our coaches would always have a game plan before the game. One of the most important aspects of a game plan is that it needs to be flexible, because you can’t anticipate what’s going to happen during the game. Similarly, every problem you face is going to be different, so you should always have an idea of what kind of strategy you’re going to use when you problem solve, but be flexible enough to adapt it to individual situations.

Student Q: How did you come up with the idea for Kodable?

Jon’s Answer: I started to program when I was 6. This was awhile ago, long before there were so many kid-friendly resources available! My first computer used a text-based operating system called MS-DOS and didn’t even have a mouse. However, after a few years, I lost interest, and moved on to other things. When I got to college, I was able to teach myself how to program really easily because I had learned how to think like a programmer when I was so young. When I was working with my cofounder on another idea, we kept having parents tell us how they wanted to teach their kids how to program, but didn’t know how or where to start. We put two and two together, and came up with Kodable!

Student Q: How long did it take to make the whole company?

Jon’s Answer: My cofounder and I started working on Kodable in 2012, so we’ve been working on Kodable for a full 4 years now. Kodable’s birthday is actually the same as mine, October 20th. 😄