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.

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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

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!

5 Tips for Making Purchases in Education

Education is changing! I’m sure you feel it too. You don’t have to choose between three educational content providers. There are hundreds of growing companies eager to solve challenges and needs of 21st-century classrooms. New technologies and new choices are making it easier than ever to meet the needs of all the world’s children! But now schools, educators, and companies are adjusting their purchasing processes to the 21st Century and it is proving to be challenging.

The Education Industry Association recently partnered with the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University to better understand the challenges and areas for innovation in the rapidly changing world of education. They found that only 4% of companies think that today’s ed-tech procurement processes meet contemporary needs resulting in higher product costs. The same is true on the educator’s side of purchasing. Only 36% of curriculum directors report satisfaction with time spent on procurement.

Just like in life, examining these shortcomings lead to some great ideas on how we can improve!

1. Seeing is believing!

The number one way to get funding approved is to test it in your school or classroom. Over 60% of districts rely on end user recommendations to make decisions. Once you feel confident about using this new tool, invite your principal or administrator to see the magic.  Who can deny that engagement?!

2. Start with a small pilot

As an extension of number one, remember you don’t have to start with your entire district or school. In fact, 62% of districts rely on pilots to make larger purchasing decisions.  Administrators work hard to meet the needs of everyone, and sometimes that means starting small and working your way up.

We work with districts across the country who selected 10-30% of their schools or teachers to test Kodable. Many of the districts that use Kodable now, started with one school or grade level. After a successful roll out, they decided to include more locations in the coding fun. Pilots are a fantastic way to prove the feasibility and results of a product.

3. More than an app

Apps are rarely allotted any district funds, but many companies offer far more than what is apparent in their student facing app. Check their resources and website to make sure you’re getting the most out of the product. In our experience, teachers who use the Kodable lesson plans and progress tracking are far more likely to get support from their administrators.

We often set up onboarding calls with educators to help them feel confident getting the most out of our curriculum. Do your research to see what options are available to you from the company. If you’re planning to work a new product into your curriculum, let administrators see you using all the resources it has to offer. If you know how to use the product successfully, it will be clear and you can explain the benefits more effectively.

4. Parents can help

Parents are amazing allies. If you have a supportive PTA or room parent, ask them to come watch a lesson. Talk to them about the benefits of the tool you’re using and why it is helping their children. At the very least you’ll get some support to talk to your administrator about. Some teachers have success with fundraising as a class, having a bake sale, or asking each parent to donate a few dollars.

Turning to parents has been especially successful with computer science. Parents see the benefit of knowing how to code every day at work. We have a template letter to parents available here.

5. Be proactive about purchasing

Once you make a decision to purchase, don’t let the process stall.  Everyone wants to ensure the right decision is being made, which is why research, pilots, and recommendations are so helpful. However, only 36% of curriculum directors say they are satisfied with the time it takes to make purchases. Learn about your district’s purchasing processes so you can have an impact on the amount of time it takes to implement a new solution.

I’ve spent the past two years learning about purchasing in education. There are so many ways that a great product can get lost in the shuffle. Teacher’s voices are valued and heard, but so many aren’t sure how to share their opinion.

We recently added purchase processing to the Kodable teacher dashboard. It follows the purchasing process of the majority of districts.  From there you can see exactly where you are in the process and you can keep everyone involved moving forward.

  1. Simply request a quote, then you can send it to the principal or director responsible for approving it.
  2. Your administrator can approve it and easily pass it on to the business office for purchasing.

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Each person in an organization has a role in the purchasing decision. It’s a complicated system, but we’re all working together to improve it. If you’re using Kodable with your students, check out our new purchasing page, it’s our first step toward putting purchasing power in the hands of educators.

 

Teachers – Voice your opinion to get the ball rolling.

Principals – Participate in pilots to prove results and find something your teachers will like using.

Directors and Superintendents – Identify individuals who you know will have helpful feedback on products and student outcomes when testing new ideas.

Companies – Provide resources and reliable data to your users so they can make the best decision.

 

Sources: Education Industry Association, and Digital Promise. “Improving Ed-Tech Purchasing.” Digital Promise, Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

http://www.digitalpromise.org/blog/entry/improving-ed-tech-purchasing