4 Earth Day Activities to Empower Your Students

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

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

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

What on EARTH does this have to do with coding?

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

Share stories of inspirational (kid!) innovators.

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

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

Use current events to encourage and inspire.

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

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

Give students a challenge!

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

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

Encourage teamwork and unity.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Learn JavaScript with Kodable

It is a big day at Kodable! For the past three years, we have been working toward one goal: making it as easy as possible to teach programming in elementary school! Now we provide a complete K-5 programming curriculum to elementary schools. The Kodable 4th and 5th grade curriculum, Bug World, is now available!

harry-potter

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Your 4th and 5th grade students will journey with the fuzzFamily to the arid world of the bugs. They must use real JavaScript and learn about Object-Oriented Programming concepts such as Classes, Subclasses, Properties, Methods, and more!

With the release of Bug World, Kodable is now the world’s first all-inclusive programming curriculum for elementary schools taking students from learning to think like a programmer in Kindergarten to writing real code by 5th grade.

To celebrate, we’re making our 4th and 5th grade curriculum available for you to try with your students for FREE for the rest of the 2015-2016 school year!

 

Where this fits

Bug World is the first part of Kodable that teaches actual syntax, no blocks here! We seamlessly transition from our earlier, symbol-based lessons into JavaScript. In fact, if you look closely, you might see a few familiar things!Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 2.39.23 PM

The Bug World lesson plans and student content we are teaching advanced concepts often included in the first semester of college for computer science students. These concepts are not out of reach for your students, however, is intended for upper elementary students, or those that already have a solid foundation in our earlier content.

 

 Your 2nd graders having completed earlier parts of Kodable should already code on a 5th grade level.

The United States has already moved toward making coding a part of every child’s education with the recent CS for All Initiative. Bringing CS to every student has always been our goal, and our complete K-5 Programming Curriculum makes it that much easier for schools to begin teaching their students computer science in Kindergarten. By completing their study of JavaScript in 5th grade, students can explore other areas of computer science in middle and high school.

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What it teaches

Our Object-Oriented Programming Curriculum teaches real computer science in a way that makes it accessible for young learners. To make this learning process as smooth as possible, we highly recommend following our lesson plans before moving to on-screen content.

We know that teaching computer science can be intimidating, but our mission has always been to make it as accessible to teachers without previous coding experience. This has never been truer than in our new content. The good news is that we’ve created some incredible resources, designed from the ground up by teachers, for teachers.

 

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Each lesson plan includes vocabulary, learning objectives and a collaborative off-screen activity. You do not need any previous JavaScript or programming experience to teach and learn with your students.

 

 

 

 

 

Your students began their programming education on Smeeborg by learning about foundational coding concepts in isolation, such as:

  • Sequence
  • Conditions
  • Loops
  • Functions
  • Debugging

In Asteroidia, your students learned all about Variables, including:

  • Strings
  • Integers
  • ArraysScreen Shot 2016-02-19 at 1.44.57 PM

Our Object-Oriented programming curriculum (Bug World!) prepares students to write real, dynamic programs with actual programming syntax. Bug World revisits foundational concepts while teaching four new concepts:

  • Classes
  • Properties
  • Subclasses
  • Functions

Students will learn about these concepts off-screen and then take to their devices for independent practice. Your class will write classes, modify properties, make subclasses, and work with functions to engage in an exciting and dynamic program.

 

Why we chose JavaScript?

JavaScript is the most widely used language in the world, and powers virtually every website you visit. It is also the easiest language to get started with and see real results – which is incredibly powerful for captivating young learners. You and your students are going to learn an incredibly powerful technology that powers some of the biggest websites in the world, including Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix.

Improvements in JavaScript recently (specifically, ECMAScript 6) has made it a viable, and powerful teaching tool for students.

 

What it means for you

Our curriculum and lesson plans are available now on your teacher dashboard. As with every other concept in Kodable, we have included complete, scripted lessons that you can dive into with your students.

Feel free to give it a whirl this spring! It is available to everyone from now until June 31st, 2016.

Get Started with your students

If your school is considering implementing coding on a K-5 scale, please feel free to reach out to us (support@kodable.com) about the scope and sequence of the Kodable Curriculum We’re happy to help you determine if it can fit your goals.

Sam Patterson’s 5 Tips to ROCK the Hour of Code

The Hour of Code is an annual celebration of the ever-growing culture of programming and connected learning. The Hour of Code is an invitation to schools and teachers to bring programming into the learning space and see the possibilities. When schools dedicate themselves to the Hour of Code, they are pledging to get each student on a device for at least an hour in one week.  This alone is worth the effort.

If your school has not yet done the Hour of Code, here are five tips for having a totally successful hour of code: 

 

Think Big

Using the tools on Code.org and combining offline, tablet, and desktop activities, your school can get EVERY KID participating in the Hour of Code. Dedicating the school to connecting every kid moves this from a class activity to a community event. School cultures change from the level of community.

Unplug

Whether it is Fuzz Family Frenzy, or Cup Stacking, or dancing, get students working with code without screens. Students can code amazing things offline, explore the activities ahead of time and shape them to best fit your community.

Bring Friends

If your school already uses programming regularly, use this as a chance to share that work with the community. Consider hosting a Family Coding Day to have parents and student programming together. Read more about this idea here.

Everybody Codes

Every student, teacher, staff, and support person can code and should, at least for an hour. The world of programming is changing all the time and we can’t leave anyone out.

Don’t Stop

Once you get programming into the classroom, don’t let it out! Programming can be used instructionally in any subject and grade level to support student learning. You can connect with great teachers using programming to support student learning on the hashtags #csk8 and #kidscancode.

Sam Patterson EdD is an enthusiastic K-5 tech integration specialist, founder of #PATUE education twitter chat, and Teacher Cast Media Group Blogger. He is in his third year teaching programming to K-8 students at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, and has organized three Hour of Code Community Days with over 300 visitors. Follow him on twitter @SamPatue or read his blog here.

Teacher of the Week: Kaye Rueschhoff

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

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

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

 What do you love most about teaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher of the Week: Melika Panneri

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

What do you love most about teaching?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher of the Week: Jaime Chanter

We are honored to introduce Jaime Chanter, of Horace Mann and Grant Elementary. Jaime’s teaching career was sparked by learning the value of helping others, and we’re inspired after hearing how one teacher’s passion is equipping so many students with technology!

Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your teaching background? jaime chanter

When I was in high school, I worked at a grocery store that helped individuals with disabilities join the workforce.  The teaching bug bit me when I saw employees teaching skills and participants graduating from the program. I knew I really want to get into Special Education and was credentialed in PK-12 in Special Education and PK-8 in General Education. My heart and soul was always in Special Education and after teaching a General Education first grade class, I switched districts to do a 3-5 intervention. I was a huge advocate for inclusion in General Education classrooms, which spiraled into technology. Technology was  key to help level the playing field for students with disabilities in the inclusion environment, and 2 years ago a position in the district opened for a Curriculum and Tech teacher. Now I work with 600+ kids and get to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love the excitement when I walk into a classroom-  the kids are super excited to work and be engaged.  Students love what we’re doing, it’s fun and they’re willing to work because they want to learn.

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

Coding makes something happen. Kids have to start with an idea,work at it, and then make something out of it. It involves critical thinking, collaboration, failure, and perseverance. Kids crave to go back and try something else, they want to make progress.

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

Doing the hour of code has been so exciting for us. Seeing kids and teachers experience coding for the first time and get hooked on it has been really exciting. At home, my 3 year old uses Kodable, and my other daughters love coding. They’re so proud of what they are doing.

What are some challenges you have had implementing coding in your school? future club jaime chanter

Time is a huge challenge. Teachers are always pressed for a time and it’s not always easy to see how important coding is if they haven’t seen the results. Money is also hard. Kids can use free apps and websites for a long time, but it’s so nice to get robots and subscriptions that make apps better. Finding a way to budget time and money is really important. I started a Future Club with a focus on coding, robotics, gaming, and making.  Three schools (soon to be four) hold weekly one hour meetings before school for alternating groups of students.  We had such a huge response, we had to rethink budget, space, and time!  I’m so lucky to work with amazing teachers who volunteer their time to lead the club with me.  My administration has been so generous, which is huge to have that support.  I’ve  also written grants, which has been a really successful way to get what we need.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructor?

We have a local company called Hyland Software that held a contest for high school students. The students got to work together to develop an app and students from our high school won. They were awarded with an internship through the company, and  I would love to see some of my current students get that opportunity. I want the kids in our coding club to have that chance, I really want to get our k-5 kids ready for that project in high school, maybe find or even start one for elementary students.

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

I wake up at 4:45 on school days and do 1 hour of spin class. I don’t check my phone; that hour is mine and mine alone. I sacrifice sleep for it, but it’s so worth it. It makes the whole day better. I’m more productive, energetic, and happier. I’m awake and feeling good!

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

Skills. Less focus on content and information,  but to be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically, get creative. Student led passion and discovery.

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

I have 6 kids. I like to take and edit photos of them and turn them into movies. I add text and audio to them, I love to get creative with it. I want the movies to be really special for my kids later in life.

jaime chanter family jaime chanter project

 

Thinking about bringing coding to your school and students? Sign up for your free account and get started! Register an Account

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

Teacher of the Week: Polly Meissner

Watch Froz-N-Code, inspired by Polly!
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Congratulations on being chosen as teacher of the week! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your teaching background? 

I work with 8 elementary schools doing coding and programming as a Media Specialist. I get to work two full days a week at Loess Hills Elementary, which never feels like enough time. Over the past 20 years, I’ve taught library in different capacities. I did 1:1 computers at the high school level and got “the tech bug.” We started a student help desk and trained students to repair computers for each other. Now, Loess Hills is going 1:1, and the high school students are working on the computers and bringing them to the elementary school kids.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love seeing kids “get it.” That look on their face when something becomes meaningful; a connection to the world, the class, or to each other. I see it a lot with coding- when one student gets it and they want to show someone else. It’s amazing to see them buy into it, feel proud, even be a little amazed with themselves. I often see it in coding with the kids who struggle a little more, and it’s such an eye opener for the students who typically get everything right away. It’s a huge boost of self esteem for kids who aren’t always in the position to be the “go to” person for help from their classmates.

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

It teaches so many problem solving skills and kids see that there are multiple ways to do things. Students start learning that we can do things differently and recognize that they can use their own skills to come up with a plan and make it happen. Our kids are maybe missing that in other areas. Technology promotes collaboration to solve problems and teamwork.

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

I worked with a small group of 2nd graders last year and we had a student arrive from another country and was very far behind. Building a relationship with her through working on coding together and solving problems really helped her progress. Coding helped us build a relationship,  give her self confidence, and help her adjust. That’s what I love about kids and coding- they know that a mistake just means try again; it’s okay to try a few times.

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

Our story is interesting because we started with a cohort of teachers (1 in each grade grade) bringing coding into the classroom. Scheduling was probably the biggest challenge; I travel and can only be at Loess Hills two days a week. I want to be able get into the classrooms more, time is always a challenge.

What is one coding goal you have as an instructorPolly Meissner TOW

I want to be the Kodable guru that everyone can go to!  I want to learn every part of the program, so I need to make time go through it all myself. Coding doesn’t come that easy to me,  and I want to learn everything about what you guys are designing so I can help my teachers get it into their classrooms.

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

I love to read. I have three daughters, but I try to take 30 minutes a day for uninterrupted alone time. Sometimes it’s listening to a book in my car during my commute; I love getting taken away into a story for a bit.

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

To become a lifelong learner. It scares me how many adults just focus on work and life and stop learning. You have to be willing to reevaluate your work and make changes. Ask yourself, “How can I make myself better?” Always keep learning, don’t get stuck in a debilitating rut.

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

I have four kids, and we live on a farm. My daughters raise their own cattle and our family does the fair circuit. We enjoy the farm life activities; I like to leave the city and get to go home to my family on the farm.

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