Kodable Road Tour: Day 10

After 2 great days in Minnesota, we headed south to Sioux City, Iowa where we spent the day with Loess Hills Elementary doing PD sessions and programming workshops with a wonderful crew!

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What we learned: Connecting coding to the common core

Loess Hills spoke at length with us about their desire to continue expanding their coding curriculum, but also their plans to integrate it with the common core. We spent our PD session brainstorming and demonstrating how Kodable can be integrated with the CCSS. It also taught us the importance of making this connection easier in Kodable, and this is something that we plan on adding in the future. As of right now, we have a list of the common core standards that Kodable aligns with, but many of these are math standards. After our PD sessions and workshops, we realized that we should work on making Kodable align with more reading standards, and we came up with some great ideas together to make this a possibility in the future. So thanks to the team at Loess Hills, look for many more exciting changes to come!

Favorite Moment: Functions??!

When we began our lesson with Loess Hill 2nd graders we planned to cover loops at the most to challenge them, but we quickly saw that they were quite advanced and ready for functions! After we wrote our first line of code for our robot and went to write a second, one of the students immediately responded that a loop would be appropriate in this situation. In addition to this, another student countered that a function would probably make more sense given what our goals were for the program. Wow! Needless to say, we were very impressed. 🙂

The Future: Curriculum integration and making more time for coding

Loess Hills is doing great with teaching coding so far, but thanks to Polly Meissner (@libraryPolly), Layne Henn (@sctechbuzz), and many others, they plan to expand this in the future. This means more time spent coding, and further integration into the school curriculum with more teachers onboard and taking part.

Thank you everyone for the warm reception at Loess Hills! We hope to get back to check in again in the future. 🙂

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Off to Texas!!

Kodable Road Tour: Day 9

We had such a great first day in Minnetonka that we decided to stay for round 2 the very next day! Today’s stops included: Clear Springs Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary.

Stop #1: Clear Springs Elementary

In the morning we met up with our great friend Jeremy (@JEngebretson75), and got prepared to start a fresh day of coding with some students.

What we learned: A new way to teach students to count loops

Yesterday, we spoke to many students about how important it was to use loops in the right manner, and not just use the simply for the extra boxes to take up space. Today, we helped students understand and identify how many iterations are needed for a loop, so that they can begin to use loops more efficiently. In order to determine the number of iterations, we helped the students count the corners of each maze with two fingers. By placing two fingers on the corner of each maze and counting the number of times this occurs, students were able to easily figure out the number of iterations needed for their loop. This made things much easier, as many students tend to eyeball and then guess the number of iterations that they need. Furthermore, since they had discovered a way to easily identify the number of iterations, these students tended to use loops in a more efficient manner, and discarded their old methods.

Highlight of the day: Rating understanding with thumbs up/thumbs down

During our sessions at Clear Springs, we encountered one of our favorite rating systems, the thumbs up if you understand, and thumbs down if you are still confused rating system. This immediate feedback was very useful for our lesson to help gauge if the students understood the material, and we ended up using this a number of times to help explain some of the more difficult concepts such as binary code, translating code, and how exactly loops work.

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With this visit we concluded our time in Minnetonka! Thanks so much to everyone who made it a great two days of programming. 🙂

Stop #2: Cedar Ridge Elementary 

For our last stop in Minnesota, we headed over to Cedar Ridge Elementary where we met up with the awesome Jen Heyer and her students. 🙂

What we learned: Let the students be the experts

We have already talked a little about the ask 3 then me rule on our trip, which has worked very well so far. But in today’s class we also saw the importance of having students be the experts. In this session we had several students who were flying through the game, and some others who were finding some of the challenging levels a little bit difficult. When we paired those who were struggling with those who had already finished a particular level, the results were phenomenal.

Take away: Many students will move quickly through lessons while others will be more challenged, and quite a few students will play at home and finish Kodable as well. Since there are often many students who are on several different portions of the game, it can sometimes get tricky if you want to complete a lesson that many students have already finished. Instead of forcing these students to red0 levels they have completed or let them move far ahead of other students, instruct them to help others, and teach the concepts to their fellow classmates.

Favorite moment: Watching kids learn loops in a matter of minutes

Jen’s class had limited experience with loops, but that did not stop them from picking it up very quickly. We had put aside several minutes of discussion for loops, but in a matter of a few minutes, all of the students had firmly grasped the concept and were ready to move on to using loops in Kodable. Instead of holding them back, we move straight to loops lessons and watched them get busy coding!

The future: Coding during Fall Science

Jen shared with us her awesome plans to teach Computer Science….as an actual science next year! In place of teaching other Science topics, Jen plans to make time for Computer Science during these units, and make it a staple in her classroom curriculum. We can’t wait to hear more about how her ambitious plans work out next year!

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And we are off to Iowa! Stay tuned for our blog about our visit to Loess Hills Elementary.

Kodable Road Tour: Day 8

After a long drive from Chicago, we kicked off Day 8 in Minnesota (said in MN accent) ;P. Today, we visited 3 schools!! Wow, what a jam packed day…but so much to share!

Our First Stop: Deephaven Elementary

What we learned: Kodable works to perfection when you set up a class beforehand

Most times when we finish our screen-free activity and move to setting up students with iPads, there is a little confusion and it takes some time to get students set up. Not in Minnetonka! Thanks to Jeremy Engebretson (@JEngebretson75) and the amazing teachers at Deephaven, the students were already organized into a class on Kodable, and were very familiar with the login procedures. In less than 2 minutes, each student was playing Kodable and the workshop was moving along again.

Take away: Organize your students into a class to save time and the headache

Since each student was already in a class, they could easily sign in on their iPad and did not have to waste time searching for the correct iPad or creating an account. Each student was able to begin exactly where they left off, and were quickly engaged without any distraction. This made for a seamless transition, and minimized the amount of time students could disengage for the lesson. The time spent adding students to a class led to an enormous amount of time saved down the road during lessons. This makes a huge difference when you have a limited amount of programming time and every minute counts.

Memorable moment: Let’s test our code!

Throughout the course of the workshop we watched many students input a small amount of code and begin testing to see how far the fuzz would roll before they received an error message. This reminded us the importance of trying and testing our code, as well as not being afraid of failure. This is a concept that we want to try to stress in Kodable, as it is immensely important for programmers when they are writing a program or debugging.

What’s down the road?

Coding coordinators at Deephaven are making a coding curriculum/plan for each grade level. This past year has gone so well that they are planning on doing even more in the future, and making coding an even bigger part of their everyday curriculum.

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Our Second Stop: Glen Lake 

What we learned: Lessons can be applied at many ages

In Glen Lake we switched things up and completed a Kodable workshop with a class of 6th graders! Fresh off a morning of working with 1st graders, we were a little out of our element at first, but quickly hit our stride once we began talking with the students. This experience taught us that any programming concept can be adapted for older students, and can work quite well. We had great discussions surrounding programming, fielded a number of difficult questions, and also learned a lot while playing Kodable.

Memorable Moment: Complete a challenging level together and hearing the cheers as the fuzz attempted to roll through the maze each time

In this particular session, we decided to complete one of the most challenging levels of Kodable together, and see if we could encourage our students to program the fuzz through the maze using the most efficient code possible. This turned out to be an exhilarating experience as the fuzz almost made it through the maze a number of times, but not quite. Eventually we got it, and we were very happy that we chose to do a level together.

What’s next?

Colette Kastner’s student’s were very interested in how we got started and involved with Kodable, and the route we took to get there. Many of the students asked how they could begin to learn to code on their own, and we provided them with a number of resources such as our How I Taught Myself to Code series where they could find some things to get started. Looking forward to hearing how things continue to progress into the future. 🙂

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Our final stop: Groveland Elementary

What we learned: Explain thatlLoops are not just for adding more spaces

Many students when working on loops levels in Kodable simply like to use the looper to add more boxes so that they can complete their code. To avoid this, we spoke a lot to the students about identifying patterns in each of the technomazes in Kodable. When working with a student, I would always start off by asking them if they noticed any patterns in the maze in front of them. If they did, I would instruct them to then look at the number of boxes available in the command bin. If there did not seem to be that many boxes, then I loop would most likely need to be used.

Additionally, we also stressed utilizing iterations for each of the loop. Each loop should never be used just once, but should be used at least twice. When we showed many of the students the benefits of tapping on the looper and increasing the number of iterations, many abandoned the previous methods and started utilizing the loops in a more efficient manner.

Memorable Moment: Seeing the students learning and communicating in Spanish

While we were visiting Groveland, we were fortunate enough to visit one of their Spanish immersion classes, where…you guessed it…all of the students spoke Spanish! This was the first time that we had ever taught programming in another language, and we were a little intimidated at first. However, Grechen and I tried our best to use our limited Spanish language knowledge to fit in and help the students as much as possible.

 

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What a whirlwind of a day! Check in again to hear more about more of our adventures in Minnetonka tomorrow. 🙂

Kodable Road Tour: Day 6

The Kodable Road Tour

After a weekend to recharge, we ventured off to the Boston area for Day 6 of our programming road tour. Today’s stops: Downey School and Horace Mann Elementary.

First Stop: Downey School

At Downey School we met up with Judy Kress and an eager group of Kinders/2nd graders who were more than ready to get started coding.

What we learned: Know your audience

As we continue to work on and improve our workshops, we started out with a great learning experience at Downey. When running through our fuzzFamily Frenzy activity and programming our robot, we lost/confused our audience midway through the activity. We challenge our young students in the activity by introducing them to new terms, and concepts. This includes programming terms such as coding and binary, as well as concepts such as rotating/spinning a certain number of degrees when coding our robot. Today, our kinders/2nd graders were a little confused with the concept of rotating a certain number of degrees, something they had not gotten to cover in class just yet.

Take Away: Clearly explain commands as you go along 

We learned that it is important to make sure that all of the students have a firm understanding of new terms and concepts before moving ahead. When writing code on the board for our fuzzFamily frenzy activity, it is important to make sure that students are clear on the code being used, as well as the basic functions of our robot. In retrospect, we should have explained the concept of rotating, talked more about degrees, and made sure that these difficult concepts were clear before moving on. Or even better, we could have described them in simpler terms, or talked about rotating our robot in a way that they would better understand.

Favorite Moment: Meeting girls in a coding club

We had the wonderful opportunity of meeting girls in a coding club who couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was. It was great to see their passion and interest, as well as their desire to continue learning more coding concepts. These girls were clearly really smart, and we all would benefit if they continue with coding.

The plan for the future: Get more girls coding

Downey has plans for a girls coding club, and is also looking for suggestions for Technovation. Help out with some ideas! @judykress

Thanks to Judy and the rest of the crew we met at Downey for all of the awesome pictures! Check out our amazing slideshow below of our morning.

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Horace Mann Elementary

What we learned: Bring others in

When we visited Patti and her students at Horace Mann, we were certainly not alone! During our programming session were were joined by many other teachers and parents who wanted to learn more about programming. This served as a great opportunity to get others on-board, and advertise how awesome coding can be for our young students. It also did not hurt to have extra volunteers to help the students along in our workshop, and made for a wonderfully collaborative experience. By the end of the session everyone was super impressed, and we fielded tons of questions about continuing coding and where to learn more for the future.

Favorite Moment: Our Google Hangout

In our last session with Horace Mann 5th graders, we brought in expert help from our team member Marc, who helped us out with answering some complex technical questions. Our students put him to the test, asking him some tough programming questions about best practices in programming and Kodable’s code base. This discussion turned out to be very informative for everyone, and I would suggest that every class speak to a programmer! Sharing thoughts, projects, and ideas is always a great way to get students excited about coding.

The future: More coding!

Horace Mann plans to continue to use Kodable and develop their programming curriculum. We were truly amazed at how much coding knowledge the students had by 5th grade, and we are looking forward to seeing them expand in the future!

Also, Patti decorated the whole library with Kodable fuzzes before our arrival! One of the highlights of our trip was walking in to giant welcome signs and Kodable fuzzes hanging from the ceiling. Props to Patti for taking the time to make us feel welcome. 🙂

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And that is all for Day 6! On to Chicago next. 🙂

Kodable Road Tour: Day 5

Today, the Kodable Tour stopped in Greater New York, where we visited two awesome schools that shared with us all the progress they have made in their coding curriculum. Oh yea..and they helped us learn a few things as well. 🙂

First Stop: Highland Falls Intermediate School

What we learned: bugs happen; it’s okay to talk about them.

We used the web version of Kodable during our first session with Kristen Magyar, and discovered an issue with the way the cursor was appearing on their desktop computers. The graphics cards were having issues rending the cursor correctly and there was a bit of a lag. Naturally, the kids clicked furiously in an effort to get the mouse working correctly.

This was a great moment to have a discussion about bugs, why they happen, and how we can react to them. After talking about the bug, students showed great patience and everything worked well. We were fortunate to have a few iPads available as a back up for the students who didn’t want to continue with the issue.

When the second group came in, we talked about the bug with them before they got started. This made things work much smoother and they showed great patience while working with the issue.

Take awayIf you discover a bug, talk with students about it. Turn what could be a stressful situation in to a learning opportunity. You can model patience and good trouble shooting behavior for the students, as well as discuss it with students to prevent impatience before it starts.

Favorite Moment: I had a great conversation with the 5th graders at Highland Falls Intermediate School about creating an app, how to get started, and some other technical questions.

It was a lot of fun to discuss this with them, and see their eagerness and excitement at the idea of creating technology for others to use.

The future: Kristen Magyar and the team at Highland Falls are moving more into coding next year. She already has students thinking about vocabulary with words like “loops” and their definitions written all around her lab. The principal is very supportive as the technology team begins increasing the amount of coding done at Highland Falls.

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After a quick lunch, we scooted over to Lakeland schools to visit Linda Brandon.

Second Stop: Benjamin Franklin Elementary

What we learned: Smooth Transitions – brought to you by explanations.

When you go in to someone’s classroom it is a lot like visiting someone’s home. I feel a bit like I’m imposing, and want to be polite and do things “their” way. This always stopped me from being decisive about how to transition from a lesson to iPad time. Every class has their own way of handing out the iPads and giving sign on instructions. However, it usually ends up getting a bit chaotic if I don’t review how to get signed on to Kodable with the students.

On this trip, I’ve learned I can ask a few review questions before saying the magical word (iPad) that sends everyone in to frenzy and make the lesson-to-iPad transition go easily. They’re listed below, and work like a charm!

What app will we be using? (Kodable)

What does the icon look like? (Yellow with a blue fuzz)

What do we do when Kodable opens? (Press play)

Do we press play if we don’t see our name on the play button? (No)

How do we switch? (Press the button with people on it “Switch Profiles”)

What do we press next? (Our class name)

What do we press when we see the list of names? (Our name)

Favorite moment: It’s always fun to see how much students learn in a small amount of time during our coding sessions, but to people who haven’t seen the power of coding with a live class of students it can really have an impact. There were a lot of visitors in our session at Benjamin Franklin. People from all over the district were there to learn and watch our session. I loved seeing the recognition of how much learning was happening when “playing” coding.

Thanks to Linda for creating this awesome Animoto!

The future: Everyone in the Lakeland school district is interested in coding. It was wonderful to see so much support coming from district administrators. People came from a variety of schools and positions to watch our sessions, and were eager to learn more about implementing coding.

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What a day! Keep reading to learn more about our adventures on Day 6. 🙂

Kodable Road Tour: Day 4

Wow, what a day! Day 4 is in the books for the Kodable Road Tour, and our sessions just keep getting better and better. On this particular day of our programming journey, we arrived in Queens, New York, where we had tons of coding fun with our good friends at the Solomon Schechter School of Queens. 

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What we learned: When choosing a robot for fuzzFamily frenzy…choose wisely! 

One of the unplugged activities that we have had great success with over the course of the Kodable Road Tour thus far is fuzzFamily Frenzy. This activity is a great starter activity for any grade level that is beginning to learn to code, and can be differentiated in a number of different ways to accommodate the skill levels of the students. We have covered sequence, functions, and everything in between in fuzzFamily frenzy so far on our tour, and the students have responded really well.

Students at the Solomon Schechter School were particularly impressed with fuzzFamily Frenzy, and the amazing Rebecca Simon helped us even further differentiate the activity for the benefit of the students. Often Grechen and I are the volunteer robots, but this time around Rebecca arranged for some of the more vocal and outspoken students in her class to serve as the robots in our activity. We found that this worked particularly well because even after the activity ended, these students could be reminded that they had been “coded” in a certain way, and that they had to live up to the expectations of their program. 🙂

This also led to a number of interesting variations of our robot program, including lots of jumping, dancing, and fist pumps.

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Plans for the future: This is only the beginning…

Solomon plans to continue with more unplugged activities, and was thrilled to hear about the new Kodable Curriculum. Rebecca is always looking for more ideas and has done an awesome job at getting more teachers at her school on-board and started coding. Be sure to follow her at @Edtechmorah to learn more about the neat stuff she is doing with coding at her school and share ideas.

Favorite Moment: What to do when the WiFi is not working?

We often talk about our greatest fear when in the classroom…and that is what to do when the WiFi is not working. For a slight moment in our visit…this fear struct all of us. However, not to worry…because we had plenty to do in the meantime! When the WiFi wasn’t working we quickly moved to unplugged, shared devices, and completed Kodable lessons together. Just because a problem comes up doesn’t mean that there is any reason to panic, and this experience clearly demonstrated this. Instead, it gave us a great opportunity to pair program, answer questions, and work together on a number of programming challenges.

The Kodable Road Tour is flying by! Join in on the fun by following our daily updates…and support the cause by buying an AWESOME Kodable T-Shirt. 🙂

Kodable Road Trip T-Shirts

Kodable Road Tour: Day 1

The Kodable Road Tour

Today, we kicked off the first leg of our Kodable Road Tour in Maryland and got off to an AWESOME start!

After beginning our journey eastward on Sunday at 4am local time in San Francisco…

Kodable Road Tour San Francisco
Those are some sleepy faces!

…we arrived in Baltimore ready to rock and roll. It was time to begin teaching some programming!

First Stop

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland where we talked about loops and binary – and just how many planets the fuzzes should definitely visit!

Lots of collaboration with pair programming!

What we learned: The versatility of going screen free
I’ve always loved the Fuzz Family Frenzy, because it’s simple to explain and a LOT of fun. However, today it was even better. We took the activity a step further and created our own commands as a class to define exactly how many degrees our robot (Neal Rooney) should turn and how high it should jump.

We also talked about how the code gets redundant when you have to repeat “left foot, right foot”. That spurred a great lesson about how loops work and how they’re key to more efficient coding. I’ll definitely be adding that lesson to my tool belt. 🙂

Fuzz Family Frenzy using loops
Here you can see some of our code using loops. (and instructions to jump 2 feet!)

What’s happening in the future: Debi Krulak (@MrsKatBL) plans to integrate coding into more lesson plans as the lower school media specialist. She says knowing where everyone is at with in Kodable helps to know when to stop and spend more time talking about a concept. She had a great idea to use screen free activities as a way to asses how well students are able to apply the lessons they learn in another scenario.

Favorite moment: A comical and adorable conversation about how computers can’t understand sarcasm.

Next, we headed down to Annapolis for our second stop of the day!

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Second Stop

St. Martin’s In-The-Field Episcopal School, where we learned about the great Grace Hopper and that testing our code can prevent bugs.

Team debugging!
A deep discussion involving bugs and testing.

What we learned: Kids understand much more than we think they do

Neal and I talked to a group of first and second graders and then a group of third and fourth graders. It was interesting to see the older students grasp the concepts of sequential thinking and giving a computer commands really quickly.

The extra time gave us the opportunity to try something new and talk about concepts like variables and functions. We presented the new ideas in a simple and easy to digest way: modifying the class’s original Fuzz Family Frenzy code. We added specifics like degrees of a turn, length of our steps, an height of our jumps. We also discussed how that program could be assigned as a function and used again later by calling on the name we gave it.

We had a lot of fun with these brilliant first graders!

What’s happening in the future: Karen White and other teachers at her school are starting an iLab! She’s a firm believer in the power of playing to learn and wants her students to get their hands dirty working with a variety of new technologies.

Favorite moment: Seeing the power of Kodable as a break from testing, and getting to be the run-away robot when we had a bug in our Fuzz Family Frenzy code.

BONUS: We enjoyed a bit of down time at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Wow! It definitely made me a proud American.

Grechen
Boat selfie 😀
Neal
Look! More boats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day down and another to go! Thank you to both schools for your kindness and hospitality. We’re loving every minute so far and we can’t wait to see more schools!

Also, don’t forget to join the fun and support the Kodable Road Tour! Check out the neat T-Shirts we created just for the trip!

Kodable Road Trip T-Shirts

 

The Kodable Road Tour Starts Now

The Kodable Road Tour

The time for the Kodable Road Tour has finally come! As of this very moment we are putting the finishing touches on our packing, and preparing to embark on our journey to teach programming to schools all across the country.

Here are some quick stats for the Kodable Road Tour:

  • Traveling for 21 days
  • Visiting 15 states
  • Journeying a total of 7,967 miles
  • Holding workshops at 30 schools
  • Working with close to 1,500 students
  • Eating a year’s worth of fast food

Where in the world is Kodable?

Start: Sunnyvale, CA

Kodable Road Trip Baltimore

Destination: Baltimore, MD

Be sure to keep an eye on the blog, as we will keep you up-to-date on our progress and recount our experience at each school we visit. We will also be sharing our stories via Twitter and Facebook.

Finally, don’t forget to order Kodable gear along the way! Check out our awesome Kodable Road Trip T-Shirts.

Kodable Road Trip T-Shirts

The Kodable Programming Curriculum is LIVE!

It’s been awhile in the making, but we are proud to announce that the new Kodable Curriculum is now LIVE and can be accessed right from your Kodable Teacher Dashboard! To explore these exciting new changes simply:

1. Visit Kodable.com

2. Login to your Teacher Account in the top right hand corner:

3. And voilà! Welcome to your new Kodable Programming Curriculum!

Kodable Programming Curriculum Dashboard

What’s included in the new Kodable Programming Curriculum?

Thousands of educators have been teaching their students basic programming concepts with Kodable for over a year. The focus of the new Kodable Programming Curriculum is to make teaching these coding concepts even easier.

Organized by concept, the new Kodable Programming Curriculum is a step-by-step guide to teaching your students the basics of programming.

Teaching Programming by Concept

Kodable Programming Curriculum: Sequence

The Kodable Programming Curriculum covers the most important programming concepts for beginners:

  • Sequence
  • Conditions
  • Loops
  • Functions
  • Variables (Coming Soon!)

Teaching programming concepts can often be intimidating, and sometimes it is difficult to know where to start.

Don’t worry! 

In the new Kodable Programming Curriculum we divide each programming concept into digestible and time efficient units. These units are also chock-full of teaching resources to help you along the way:

  • Concept Learning Guides
  • Unplugged Activities
  • Kodable Lessons
  • Lesson Answer Keys
  • Concept Vocabulary

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Brand New Programming Lessons

To supplement the new Kodable Programming Curriculum we have also added brand new Kodable lessons for the following programming concepts:

  • Sequence
  • Algorithms
  • Debugging

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More coming soon!

Over the course of the next few months, we will be adding resources and making improvements to the curriculum. So keep an eye out for future updates!

Kodable Web

#KidsCanCode Chat: Transitioning to Written Code

Transitioning to Written Code

When should I start teaching my students programming language syntax? How do I transition from programming concepts to written code? We chat about all this and more in this week’s chat!

Chat Questions

Q1: Do you teach your students a written programming language?

Q2 PART A: What is the right time to start teaching Ss a written programming language?

Q2 PART B: What are the best exercises for getting Ss started learning a written programming language?

Q3: What is the best programming language for a young learner to start with?

Q4: AGREE or DISAGREE: For young Ss, learning to think like a programmer is more important than learning a written programming language.

Q5: How do I teach a written programming language if I don’t understand the syntax myself?

Join us Tuesdays at 8pm EST for #KidsCanCode Education Chat!