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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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!

Piloting: Step 3 to Implementing Computer Science in Elementary

This is part 3 of a 4 part series where we will cover each stage of implementing computer science in elementary school based on thousands of conversations with educators.

After casual exposure and experimentation with multiple options, you’ve had your “WOW!” moment and you’re ready to pilot one program with structured goals and meaning. When piloting anything new with goals of expansion down the road, you likely have the support of administration and colleagues and are no longer the lone wolf. We’ve worked with thousands of teachers and administrators in this stage of implementing computer science in elementary.  Here are some tips to successfully move from a small-scale pilot to full implementation.

What does a pilot look like?

  • What is the  pilot stage? The pilot stage comes after casual exposure and a structured experimentation and is the initial launch of one specific program. The pilot stage is the final step before a full, school or district-wide implementation and serves as a “test run” to prepare and learn from.
  • Who is involved? In the pilot stage, school administration is involved, as well as at least one teacher participating in the pilot. At the district level, a superintendent may be involved as well, and parents are aware of the pilot programming happening in the community.
  • Logistics: School-specific logistics are hashed out in the pilot stage. This includes who is teaching, how often, where the program fits into the daily schedule, what resources are used, what devices are being used and how.
  • Goals, learning objectives, and data: Goals and learning objectives are clearly defined, and a method of data collection is established to evaluate the results of the pilot. This is essential moving forward, as data-driven results will drive instruction and support the value of the program you’re piloting before implementing on a larger scale.
  • Training: The teacher or teachers piloting the program are prepared and have taken the time to get to know the tools they’ll be using. At this stage, teachers should feel confident and supported.

5 Tips for Piloting a Computer Science Program

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Set clear, measurable goals.

Leading up to a pilot, you’ve experimented with different programs and your goals have developed or shifted accordingly. When kicking off a program pilot, your goals need to be clearly defined and measurable in order to evaluate data or results that demonstrate student outcomes. This is essential to move forward; your administration will want and need to see data that proves results and supports the awesome anecdotal proof you’re gathering in your classroom.  We suggest sitting down and writing out your goals for the year before getting started with your students! Feeling ambitious? Set goals for the next 5 years! You’ll get anidea of where you want to end up.

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Start small.

School districts start small by piloting programs in a few schools before adopting a district-wide program. At the school level, we often see pilots beginning with one class or grade (depending on the school size). Then you can expand to include the whole school. By starting small, you have a more focused sample size that you can work with intensely, establish logistics, and flexibly bend as you learn during the pilot.

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Let people in on the magic!

To go from a pilot to a school-wide program, you need support from administration, colleagues, and parents. You want everyone to be excited about the learning process and potential. Help everyone understand the extent of what you’ve started!

Invite administration, colleagues, and parents to see you teach a lesson. If you can’t (or your colleagues can’t) find a way to witness it live:

  • Record a lesson and ask for time to present at PD or a school event like Open House or Coding Night.
  • Share documentation and photos on your classroom walls, bulletin board, or class website.
  • Have students present and talk about the work they are doing and show parents and staff how to use the program.

Having support and excitement during the pilot is a catalyst for full implementation and will get everyone excited about computer science in elementary.

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Have a scalable plan.

Consider logistics that will affect the whole school before starting the pilot:

  • What devices will be used and are there enough?
  • Does the school have security or firewall issues that will need to be resolved?
  • Is there opportunity or time to train staff?
  • Will it be isolated to technology or integrated with the classroom teachers?
  • Is there a plan to purchase (budget money set aside, grants written, funding secured) and is everyone on board?
  • How will it work in the schedule (daily, once a week, used during one quarter or semester, etc.)?

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Being prepared is half the victory.

It is important that the teacher or teachers piloting the program are prepared. Take the extra time to review the program with everyone participating, and offer training to those who need it. Contact the program or software company to see if they offer professional development or support to teachers piloting the program. Being prepared will pay off in the long run!

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Fail forward.

You will fail. Failing forward is about embracing failure as a learning experience. Utilize the opportunity to be better next time, knowing the purpose of a pilot is to learn and prepare. At times, you may feel like you’re in over your head or you may not see the immediate value in what you’re doing but approach the experience ready to fail forward. It will have long-lasting benefits personally and professionally!

Have you conducted a pilot in your school? Tell us about something you learned in the comments! 

Experimentation: Step 2 to Implementing Computer Science in Elementary

This is part 2 of a 4 part series where we will cover each stage of implementing computer science in elementary school based on thousands of conversations with educators.

An iPad loaded with all of the latest and greatest coding apps can make you feel like a kid in a candy store: you want to sample everything before making a decision. Thousands of teachers started using Kodable as part of a “try it all and see what sticks” experimentation, are now implementing a computer science curriculum in their elementary schools. We have learned a lot from teachers about the experimental stage of computer science education and how it can lead to piloting one CS program school-wide and we’re excited to share our favorite tips!

What does the experimental stage look like?

  • What is the experimental stage? The experimental stage comes after casual exposure to coding and programming education in the form of apps, games, or unplugged activities not necessarily aligned with any objectives.  This stage is centered around exploration and experimenting with what will work, answering the question, “How can we implement this with more meaning?” Experimentation often takes the form of small-scaled structure around coding; usually after school coding clubs, lunch clubs, or coding in an after school setting.
  • Who is involved? At the experimental stage, it’s often one teacher (usually the technology teacher), after school staff, or volunteers getting their feet wet with coding. Sometimes the administration is leading the charge, or has programming on their radar but not ready to fully implement a clear structure for the school yet. The experimental stage is monumental in laying the groundwork for a strong support system and eventual large-scale rollout.
  • What resources are used? Teachers start with what’s free. Once it’s clear that a program has enough value to be purchased, schools find a way to get funding or include it in the budget. We almost always see teachers start with free content, trial periods, or free programs and once the benefits are clear the purchasing process begins. Closer to the pilot and implementation stages is when the financial investments for full computer science programs happen over  apps and free trial lessons.
  • What logistics are on the radar? During the experimental stage, the nitty gritty details aren’t quite hashed out but are important to be thinking about. Teachers are trying different things to find the best structure, where coding can fit into the schedule, and thinking about how to implement a fully structured program with meaning.
  • Where do goals and learning objectives come into play? Goals are essential to rolling out any new academic program, and computer science is no different. Without objectives, there won’t be meaning or a way to measure student outcomes. At the experimental stage, goals are unclear but exploring various options helps teachers define their goals. Seeing different possibilities and potential allows teachers and administration to define clear goals and eventually dive deeper into one program that is aligned with desired student outcomes.

So, how do you decide on which program you want to pilot?

Identify Benefits

During the experimentation stage, a lot of the decision comes down to potential. From the little bit you’ve seen, is there potential for academic value? Are students engaged? Does the program offer useful tools that you will need as a teacher and school to fully implement (content,resources, training for teachers, opportunities to learn, ability to track student data, etc.)? Once you can think about all of the different options, you should be able to answer which will have the most benefit for students and teachers to set everyone forward on a path to computer science success.

Assess Academic Value

There’s a huge and important difference between playing and learning. It’s important to consider which apps are unstructured and leave room for students to play without learning. Learning for elementary students can and should happen through playing, but the play needs to be structured and grounded in logic.  Choose an option that teaches and requires students to apply fundamental programming concepts.  Noting which apps seem to be rooted in logic and content that is supported with pedagogy will really help you make your decision- and will likely help you secure funding to implement on a larger scale.

Evaluate Feasibility

To move forward toward piloting a program, feasibility must be considered. Which program is one that provides proper resources, training, and professional development and permits staff to carry it out? Are there enough devices (iPads, Chromebooks, computers, etc.) for the programs you’re exploring or unplugged lessons to make it work? Can the staff commit to set up, training, and getting started? Answering these questions will help you see if there are any major roadblocks with the programs you’re exploring or minor bumps to iron out before piloting with one specific program.

Observe Collaboration

Programming is a unique subject area as it lends itself to (and at times depends on) collaboration. Consider which option allows for students to work together, share their work, talk about what they’re doing, or explain programming logic. Which option allows for teachers to seamlessly work together? Is there a program you’ve seen that has potential for students and teachers to learn and collaborate with each other? A program that encourages students to work in isolation and doesn’t teach them the language they need to practice metacognition or outwardly piece together what they’re working on may not be the right path to go down.

As you get ready to move into the third stage of implementing computer science in elementary, piloting a CS program, you’ll need to really start thinking about your goals and what program aligns. Once you do that, you’re ready to run with it! We’ve seen some amazing teachers narrow in and roll out successful pilots, and we’re excited to share their stories with you in parts 3 and 4 of our blog series next week.

Have you been experimenting with a variety of computer science programs? We’d love to hear how you narrowed in on a program that works for you and your school- leave it in the comment section below!

#KidsCanCode Chat 4/26/16 Encouraging Metacognition in Computer Science

Tonight we chatted about how metacognition and computer science go hand in hand. Teachers shared tips, resources, best practices and ways they’re seeing a difference in their classes! Read more ways you can start encouraging metacognition in computer science below 🙂

Metacognition and Computer Science

We’ve all been there. I was standing in front of my 30 fourth graders, modeling a multi-step equation involving fractions and decimals. Talking through the problem, I didn’t even catch myself misplacing my decimal point in the solution. “A kid mistake,” as one of my students pointed out.

A “kid mistake” or a learning opportunity? Talk about a teachable moment! Thinking about our thought process, formally known as metacognition, is not just a math, reading, or computer science skill- it’s a life skill.

How does computer science activate metacognition?

  • Thinking critically. In computer science, there are so many ways to solve problems, execute an idea, or complete a task. Like math, multiple paths can get us to the same answer and everyone may solve the same problem a little differently. Exercising metacognition allows students to think about different ways to solve a problem and choose the best possible solution.
  • Problem-solving mindset. Overcoming failure leads to success in computer science. You fail and you fail often. Having a problem-solving mindset allows you to get to the best path forward and overcome failures.
  • Debugging:  “Did I make a mistake?” “What was my plan?” “Where is the mistake and how did it happen?” “What can I do next?”
  • Comprehension: Think reading comprehension! Teaching computer science concepts off-screen allows students to think about what concepts and skills are being applied as they work in coding apps or games. Always encourage students to think about what skills to use, what potential next moves could be, and to self-monitor their process as they go; just as they would when reading.

Four ways to encourage Metacognition through Computer Science

  1. Ask questions. Whether you know anything about computer science or not (you’ll learn a lot by doing this), you can still ask your students questions while they’re on coding apps and prompt them to think about their thought process. This isn’t any different from how you would develop reading comprehension, by the way!
  • “What problem are you trying to solve?”
  • “What are your options?”
  • “How will you decide what the best solution is?”
  • “What is your next move?”
  • “How will you fix your mistakes?”
  • “What are you making?” “How will you do that?”

Follow-up Questions:

  • “Tell more more about that.”
  • “How is your idea different than your peers’?”
  • “How did you decide that was the best option?”
  • “Have you considered ___?”
  1. Organize and facilitate classroom discussions. Giving students a space to talk about their thinking allows them to think deeper about their thought process and put it into words- taking metacognition a step farther. You don’t have to be a computer science expert to set the stage for students to talk about their ideas and strategies. Head here for some great classroom discussion activities that require minimum planning and are easily transferable to STEM.
  2. Give students choice and ownership (across content areas). When students are invested and responsible for what they’re doing, they are more likely to be intentional about their work. Mindlessly breezing through coding apps or programs is far less of an issue when students are curious and want to engage with their work- commence debugging!
  3. Model it! Talk through your thought processes, what you’re thinking as you’re doing a read aloud, and capitalize on your own mistakes. Find (or make) opportunities where you can audibly go back through your thought process and correct mistakes. This will benefit students in a few ways: they’ll see a real life example of metacognition, they’ll remember it and try it on their own, and they’ll realize everyone makes mistakes and can correct or catch them by thinking about their thought process as they go.

Opportunities are endless to model thinking strategies for students across academic standards and real-life situations. Not being afraid to take a leap with computer science and trusting your own strategies for developing students in other areas is key, and that is certainly something worth thinking about.

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!

Measuring Coding Progress: 5 Ways to Check for Understanding

Teachers are constantly required to gauge student learning and report on student progress. To do this, we confer with students, do whole group checks throughout lessons, and constantly assess student learning formally and informally.

With coding, teaching resources can be limited, and there aren’t too many teachers that are Computer Science experts on the side. How can progress be measured without the instructor having some level of coding knowledge? A good starting point is recognizing that teachers can (and should!) check for understanding in coding like any other content area.

We’ve put together 5 ways teachers can monitor student progress in coding- checks for understanding that can be applied to coding like any subject:

1. Ask Questions

It’s easy to think that a student using a coding app or program knows what they are doing as they progress through levels. Passing levels does not mean that a student fully understands what they did. Asking students to explain what they are doing requires critical thinking and helps students make sense of what they are learning.

Basic questions to ask students to check for understanding:

  • “What concept are you working on? Tell me more about __ …”
  • “What do you think you should do next?”
  • “What will happen if you do (x)?”
  • “Why do you think (x) is the best move?”

2. Quick Sketch

A visual representation of a concept:

  • Students spend one minute doing a quick sketch of the concept they are learning about
  • Share: In pairs or groups, student explain the concept that they sketched

Teachers can collect sketches, and should listen to students explain to each other in groups.

3. Letter to a Friend

Have students teach a friend about a coding concept they’ve been taught.

Ask them to include:

  • The concept they’re learning about
  • Programming terms and vocabulary
  • One challenge they experienced and had to work through
  • One success they had or their favorite lesson

4. Stuck in the Mud

Write and draw: Students reflect on their biggest challenge in coding and how they got through it. 

Students are very unlikely to breeze through apps and programs without having to try a few times to get through levels. Cultivating an environment that promotes perseverance will help students accept that challenge and failure are elements of success in coding.

 5. Define a Concept

Give each student a post-it, index card, or small piece of paper to write their name and definition on. Have students define the concept they are learning about, and collect it or use it as an exit ticket on their way out of class.

 

Below, access our examples of student reflections and checklists that you can use to monitor and track progress. We’ve included teacher questions for conferring with students, and checklists for sharing student progress with parents and administrators.

 

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