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.

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!

#KidsCanCode 8/16/16 Kick Off Coding!

Welcome back everyone! We chatted with teachers all over the United States during the first #KidsCanCode of the fall! Take a look at this week’s #KidsCanCode Chat, moderated by Kodable, to get tips from teachers who are teaching code in the upcoming school year.

Don’t forget to join us next Tuesday for our Back to School Webinar. Same time as the usual #KidsCanCode, but this time you get to ask the questions! RSVP here ->

Teacher to Teacher: Welcome to Kodable Academy!

Our mission has always been (and will always be!) making it as easy as possible to teach programming in elementary school. For us, this means equipping teachers with the  knowledge and understanding needed to teach computer science, without adding to the heavy workload and demands teachers already face.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the kick-off of Kodable Academy! We’re bringing you teacher to teacher resources on foundational programming concepts. You’ll learn right alongside us, and feel good about the content you’re delivering to your students. Don’t worry, we’ve got you!

What it looks like

Kodable Academy is a video series of short mini lessons (less than 5 minutes) that teach you foundational programming concepts. Each video explains the programming concept, gives a real life example that makes it easy to understand (like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), explains how the concept is actually applied in programming, and why it all matters. Technical jargon and abstract details? No thanks, let’s keep it simple!

Our first video teaches about Sequence, the most foundational concept in programming. The rest of the videos in the series build on Sequence, and follow the same “teaching” structure:

Who it’s for

You and everyone! Made by a teacher for other teachers, we want as many teachers as possible to feel confident taking on computer science. Our Kodable Academy resources are free and available to the public.  You’ll also find it easy to access through Kodable’s Helpdesk, registered Kodable teacher or not. We believe everyone should have access to knowledge and we hope you’ll share!

What it means for you

You can feel confident teaching computer science to your students, whether you have a coding background or not! You’ll have a better understanding of the lessons you’re teaching and the tech tools you’re using in your classroom- from iPads to robots. Need to come back to a concept? No problem! You’ll always have a quick resource at your fingertips.

Teachers already do so much. In taking on computer science, we hope Kodable Academy will be a valuable learning tool that gets you just as excited as we are about the future of computer science!

Watch Now!

Let us know what you think of Kodable Academy! Anything else you’d like us to cover? Leave it in the comments!

#KidsCanCode 6/28/16 Implementing Computer Science

We had a great time chatting with teachers in our last #KidsCanCode of the summer! We talked all about implementing computer science, from past experience to piloting new programs! Read more for details and ideas.

Coding: Strategies for Integrating the 4 c’s and the Common Core

Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity: skills that are vital to being a successful 21st Century adult, and are directly linked with the style of learning that is demanded by the Common Core.  More than that, these are life skills and should be developed throughout a child’s education.

Here are 4 ways quick ways that you can tailor coding lessons to support communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in the classroom.

1. Communication

Coding is unique in that students are required to fail before they succeed. This is a great opportunity for to students engage in academic discourse about their failures, successes, and strategies for pushing past challenges.

Try this in pairs or small groups:

  • Each student presents a problem they encountered and how they got past it- in an app or game this could be a level the student could not pass, or it could be a concept the student is struggling to understand on-screen or off-screen.
  • Using coding-specific vocabulary, the student explains their challenge and how they worked through it to their listening partner or group.

After each student has presented and explained their problem,  have them take 10 minutes to silently explain their problem and solution in writing.

2. Collaboration

Working with others is an essential life skill. Students can learn by working with and helping others, and the way I’ve seen kids genuinely want to collaborate when it comes to Kodable and coding is so exciting.

Intentionally provide opportunities for students to work together:

  • Coding Buddies
    Pair students with a buddy from an older class and meet weekly to do a coding activity together. Similar to reading buddies, this is an opportunity for cross-age collaboration and social emotional learning.
  • Challenge of the Day  
    Assign groups an off-screen challenge. This can be anything from defining a programming concept to having groups create a maze for another group to program a fuzz through. Keep it fun, appropriately challenging, and level the groups so every student has an opportunity to participate and contribute.
  • Code Busters!  One sentiment that has been echoed by our Kodable teachers is that coding has been an opportunity for students who typically struggle in other areas to shine. Assigning 5 daily  helpers, or “Code Busters,” gives every student an opportunity to share their expertise with classmates and help them work through challenges.

3. Critical Thinking

Coding is an act of thinking critically.

  • Ask Questions
    Ask students questions when they’re on their devices! Talk about their ideas, where they came across a challenge, or what they can do differently for their next attempt. Get students to actively think about what they are doing.
  • Promote Problem Solving
    Integrate writing and speaking activities that get students sharing how they solved the same problem in coding. Highlight that there are multiple ways to see a problem, think about a problem, and solve a problem. Use manipulatives, visuals, and create tables and lists.

4. Creativity

Coding programs and apps inspire design, art, expression, and overall creativity. Use off-screen lessons and activities that allow students to design and create.

Creative classroom activity: Have students create their own programming language.

Start small- students can create symbols for directions. Students decide what means up, down, left, or right in their language and teach their language to a partner.

Try these Kodable-specific activities to get creative with coding:

  • K-1
    Draw a picture of the world of Smeeborg. Include details, fuzzes, and arrows for navigation.
  • 2-3
    Write a short story about the adventure your fuzz went on in the lesson. Include programming language that is relevant to the lesson’s content.
  • 4-5
    Using other apps (Scratch), create the world of Kodable. Include mazes, fuzzes, and programming concepts (loops, conditions).

Register a free account and access Kodable lessons, resources, and additional tips for coding best practices.  Register an Account