#KidsCanCode Chat: The BEST of Coding Chat

The Best of Coding Chat

In this week’s chat, we share the BEST of everything! The BEST coding activities, BEST unplugged activities, BEST blogs, BEST paired programming activities, and so much more. 🙂

#KidsCanCode is off and running for 2015! Join us every Tuesday at 8pm EST 🙂

How to Join the Hour Of Code with Kodable

Join the Hour of Code with Kodable

The Hour of Code is almost here, and guess what?! You can learn the basics of programming with Kodable!

Follow these 5 simple steps to get your students started coding with Kodable!

Join the Hour of Code with Kodable

1. Download Kodable for FREE in the App Store

Download Kodable in the App Store

2. Watch Our Hour of Code Playlist

3. Play an unplugged activity

Introduce your students to coding basics with our fuzzFamily Frenzy unplugged activity!

Use fuzzFamilyfrenzy to help students connect programming to the real-world

4. Track student progress

If you would like to track student progress or share iPads, sign up for a FREE Kodable Teacher Account to manage your class.

Sign Up for a Free Teacher Account

5. Learn to code and have fun!

If this is your first time coding with your students, don’t let it be the last!

Make sure to have fun with your coding curriculum

Looking for more Hour Of Code? Check out our Hour of Code with Kodable page 🙂

#KidsCanCode Chat: Sharing Programming With Others

Sharing Programming with Others
How can I encourage my colleagues to start teaching/facilitating programming? How can I get my whole school coding? We came up with a number of suggestions/potential solutions in this week’s #KidsCanCode Chat.
Join us Tuesdays at 8pm EST for #KidsCanCode Chat!

Kodable Life Hacks: Create a Fuzz!

Make sure to have fun with your coding curriculum

This Halloween Week, we have had a TON of requests from teachers/students looking to create and design their own Fuzzes.  What better way to get into the spirit of Halloween/Coding than creating your own Kodable Fuzz?!

Make sure to have fun with your coding curriculum

Create a Kodable Fuzz!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Grechen’s tutorial: 4 Ways to Make a Kodable Fuzz

Also, thanks to Jen Gilbert (@msgilbertrocks), we have a brand new Fuzz design with easy directions for you to follow! Here are Jen’s detailed instructions which she shared with us:

Do you have any Fuzz designs or directions that we should have included? Let us know so we can share! Happy Fuzz Making! 🙂

Create a new Kodable Fuzz!

#KidsCanCode Chat: Starting a Coding Club

Starting a Coding Club

This week, with the help of @JennRegruth, we discussed how to start a coding club! We covered what resources and materials to use, how to use student feedback to plan activities, and our favorite projects!

Join us each week for #KidsCanCode Chat at 8pm EST!

Tips for Teachers Planning the Perfect Coding Curriculum

Tips for Teachers Planning the Perfect Coding Curriculum

Planning a coding curriculum can be a little bit scary at firstFor many educators seeking to plan a coding curriculum without having mastered the basics of computer science, it often appears to be a lot like buying a prom ticket before having secured a date.  Because of this, we have gone to great lengths at Kodable to not only prepare educators to teach their students to code, but also unsubscribe from the myth that only those familiar with programming can teach computer science. On one occasion, we even went as far as to compare teaching programming to The Hobbit.  Through it all, we have proven time and time again that any willing and passionate educator can teach their students to code.

This news comes at a fantastic time because now more than ever, teaching kids to code is not just encouraged, but completely necessary.  

By the year 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computer programming jobs available in the United States, but less than 400,000 computer science students to fill these jobs.

Even as it stands now, 21st century students need a computer science education in order to help them interact and create in our technologically dependent world, and must learn important skills such as problem solving, logic, and critical thinking that are developed through programming.  To sum it all up in one sentence: Learning the fundamentals of coding is now SUPER IMPORTANT!

There is no better time to teach programming to students and children than right now

Yes, we need to teach CS, but where do I start?

Thousands of educators across the globe are already teaching students programming and have selflessly shared their experiences on their personal blogs and via twitter, helping countless others improve or plan their own coding curriculum. Fortunately, we have spoken to many of these educators in our very own #KidsCanCode Twitter Chat, and with their contributions, we have come up with several important tips to help you organize the perfect coding curriculum.

Tips for Planning the Perfect Coding Curriculum:

Follow these useful tips to create the perfect coding curriculumGolden Rule: Don’t teach coding alone, first get some help.

When you begin learning and eventually teaching a subject that you do not know well, at first you are only as good as the teaching tools or resources that you use.

Without much programming experience, it would be unrealistic to expect you to plan an entire coding curriculum without the help of a guide and/or professional support.

Before you begin, make sure that you join in on an educational Twitter chat and ask for some friendly advice or support.  At Kodable, we moderate a weekly Twitter chat called #KidsCanCode and frequently share suggestions for organizing your own coding curriculum.  Depending on your specific questions, you can choose from one of the hundreds of chats available to educators from this updated list of educational chats.

Educational Twitter chats are also a safe place to ask for suggestions and discuss the best teaching tools, programs, Apps, games, and guides available for your coding curriculum.  Often, there is a lot of pressure in choosing the right teaching tools for your programming curriculum, so it is important to make a few key considerations before you go any further.

Join us for KidsCanCode every TuesdayBe a bit selfish: Choose a teaching tool that teaches you too. 

Pick a teaching tool that has many resources and guides to help youWhen researching teaching tools for your coding curriculum, it is critical that they possess the resources to help cater to your learning needs as well.

When developing your coding curriculum, plan on learning coding concepts a few days before or along with your students.

Most educators have had the greatest success with this method, and have found that learning/teaching programming this way provides them with enough background knowledge to answer most of their student’s questions, but also leaves them with an immense amount of flexibility to make changes based on their class’ response.  With this in mind, search for teaching tools that have corresponding guides, teacher resources, and reference materials that provide you with enough background information so that you can learn quickly, and become comfortable with what you are teaching.  At Kodable, we provide our educators with the Kodable Learning Guide.  This written resource tells educators exactly what they need to know when teaching their students basic coding concepts such as sequence, conditions, loops, and functions.

Can you see yourself learning the basics of coding and building a coding curriculum from the materials provided?  If yes, then consider how a particular programming tool will impact your teaching.

Avoid the headache: Select a teaching tool that compliments your classroom.

Select a teaching tool that functions properly to avoid unneeded stressWe have all had our share of nightmarish experiences when technology has chosen for one reason or another to fail, leaving us embarrassed, confused, and scrambling for a solution.  Whether it is a video feed that simply stopped working during the middle of an important interview, or a PowerPoint that failed to load in front of a roomful of expectant peers, we have all been there before.  With this in mind, alleviate some of this stress by choosing a programming tool that is going to minimize the headache associated with many technologies.  As a beginner, you are going to have your hands full learning the basics of coding and keeping up with your students, so don’t have any heartburn selecting a teaching tool that is going to do most of the work for you.

The key is to remember that your expertise is in teaching and not coding, so any teaching tool that is going to maximize the amount of time you can spend focusing on working with your students is preferable.

Before you start planning your coding curriculum, make a list of what you need most to succeed teaching programming, and then go out and find the tool that best suits the needs of your coding curriculum.  At Kodable, all of our best improvements began with suggestions from educators.  The end result is iPad syncing that enables teachers to hand students any iPad off of their classroom cart, student progress tracking that enables educators to leverage data to teach their students more effectively, and level management tools that allow for differentiated lesson plans.  All these features ended up being a lifesaver for educators, so make sure that whatever tool you choose has similar options available to help make your life that much easier.

Embrace expert reversal: Incorporate lots and lots of sharing.

As soon as you begin teaching coding, you will find out quickly that you are no longer the smartest person in the room.  This is why it is important that your coding curriculum embraces your changed role right from the start.

Inspire students to find solutions to their own problems by encouraging collaborative programming, creating a classroom environment where they want to constantly share, or by simply using the “ask 3 then me” rule.

Flip your class, encourage your students to explain solutions, or simply work together as a classroom to solve a difficult programming problem or work on a project.

When planning your coding curriculum, be sure to include activities that will help you teach students what they need most from you, and that is ways that we can use programming to provide solutions to real life issues.

Make coding more than a game: Use project-based learning to foster real-world connections.

In planning your coding curriculum, students do not necessarily need you to teach them all of the fundamentals of programming.  What they absolutely need is for you to provide them with a sense of direction and/or objective.

A painter does not sit down and paint for the sake of painting, but rather he/she always has a specific goal or purpose in mind.  Just the same, programmers do not sit down and code for the sake of programming, but are always working on a project with a unique objective.

Use fuzzFamilyfrenzy to help students connect programming to the real-worldFor younger students, first help them make the connection that programming involves using a computer to create physical and impactful changes.  With Kodable, we provide educators with the fuzzFamily Frenzy activity.  This screen-free activity communicates to younger students the logic associated with programming, but it also conveys to them that simple commands can move objects, navigate obstacle courses, and help them reach a specified goal.

With older students, have them create an app or a website that addresses a specific problem or corresponds with a unit that you are currently teaching. Your coding curriculum does not have to be independent from other areas of study, but can and should also be integrated with the many other subjects you are teaching.  The possibilities with programming are endless, and can be included in any assignment with a little creativity from the water cycle to music.

Mix in some laughs and smiles: Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun.

We all learn the most when we love what we are doing.  For too long programming has been negatively depicted as arduous, difficult, and boring, when in reality, coding is an immensely exciting and creative activity.

When selecting a teaching tool for your coding curriculum, be certain that it is something that your students will enjoy and love.

After all, the ultimate goal is to not just teach your students the fundamentals of programming, but get them excited about computer science, critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and learning.

Make sure to have fun with your coding curriculum

How I Taught Myself to Code: Cures for the Common Code

Stack Overflow can be a great resource when learning to code

In Part One of our series, I told you about how I came to teach myself programming.  In Part Two I detailed exactly how I did it.  In this final installment of our 3-part series on teaching yourself to code, I’d like to share some lessons that I’ve learned on my programming journey. Hopefully they can help you learn just a little faster than I did!

1. Get a Plan Stan

Stack Overflow can be a great resource when learning to codeI did a few basic Google searches, browsed some sites, and came up with a basic game plan for myself.  Stack Overflow was a great resource, but be careful with it.  Like I said in my previous post, the programming community can sometimes be a little overbearing and nit-picky.  Worry about first being able to write Hello World in Ruby before you start to fret about knowing Test Driven Development and Git.

2. You’re going to be (really) bad, that’s OK!

You can teach an old dog new tricksA common scenario when you’re first learning programming is doing a tutorial, feeling really confident, and then struggling mightily when you try to do it on your own.  This is because programming isn’t simply memorization of syntax, it is a new way of thinking, and training your brain to think differently as an adult is hard!  (old dogs and new tricks comes to mind).  Odds are, unless you’ve had some extensive experience with logical problem solving as a kid, you’ll struggle to grasp programming concepts at first.  But, just stick to it, don’t get discouraged, and things will get better as you keep practicing.

3. USE (good) BOOKS!!

I started by trying to learn through tutorials, but that ended up giving me a scattered understanding of concepts without a true knowledge of what I was doing.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to learn programming from a textbook, but I found out very quickly that you simply can’t beat the structured approach of a good book.

Be careful what books you choose.  Programming textbooks are infamous for having structured, detailed introductions, and then dropping you off a cliff.  I cant speak highly enough for the Head First Series, especially for someone who hasn’t been exposed to programming culture before.

Don't copy and paste code when learning to program4. Stack Overflow can be your best friend (and your worst enemy)

I’ve spoken about Stack Overflow before, and inevitably within the first few days of your programming journey you’ll find it as well.  It is a great resource, and the fact that you can Google a problem you’re having and find a quick solution is amazing.  However, you’ll inevitably be tempted to copy+paste solutions into your code, without trying to figure out how it works.  Try your best not to do this.  Instead, try to dissect the code to figure out exactly what you’re doing.

5. Best practices are best, except when they’re not

Best practices in programming typically refer to the “best” way to do things.  Surprising, right?  Usually, you should do your best to stick to these.  But don’t let them get in the way of the most important thing – writing code.

Even the best programmers tend to write “hacky” code sometimes.  The important thing is to realize that this probably isn’t the best way to do things, and make a mental note that it could be done better.

All the code you write for the first few months is going to be horrible anyway, does it really matter if it is indented properly?

6. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

Generally, the older you are, the harder it is going to be to learn programming.  You have to train your brain to think a different way than it ever has before. If you’ve been exposed to logical thinking and problem solving your life will be easier, but if your primary interest has been 18th English 180 Websites in 180 DaysLiterature and you suddenly want to pick up Ruby on Rails, it will be difficult because you have to learn a new way to think.  The number one thing you can do is be consistent.  Set a goal for yourself to program every day, for just one hour a day.  A great example of this is Jennifer Dewalt, who made 180 websites in 180 days.

7. Persistence, Persistence, Persistence!

One of the things I’ve seen people have the most trouble with is sticking to things when it gets tough.  During your first few months you are going to struggle mightily.  Get over it, and move on.  You’ll struggle and spend 8 hours on a task that would take an experienced programmer 5 minutes.  That’s fine!  You will get better (as long as you stick to point #3).

8. Embrace your inner hipster – take a break and get some coffee!

Take a break and get some coffee when learning programmingWhen you’re really focused on a problem that you can’t solve, oftentimes you’ll find that the solution is staring you right in the face.  You’ll quickly run into the frustrating situation where you were up late one night programming, couldn’t find an answer to a program, and gave up and went to bed.  When you wake up in the morning you’ll solve that problem in 5 minutes, guaranteed.  Learn when to take a step back and take a break, you’ll often be more efficient in the long run.

9. Make new friends!

A programmer friend is invaluable to a new initiate such as yourself.  Being able to text a friend with a specific question and getting an answer in 5 minutes, as opposed to combing through snarky Stack Overflow comments for 2 hours is an incredible resource to have.  Make programmer friends so they can help you in your journeyIf you know programmers, ask them for help!  Be nice and buy them some beer (programmers love beer) in exchange for helping you with some basic problems you’ll run into.

10. Have a Goal

There isn’t a single programmer in the world who learned programming by sitting in front of a computer and saying, “I’m gonna PROGRAM!”

Programming is like being an athlete.  An Olympic distance runner doesn’t just put on their shoes and run 15 miles every day just for the sake of running.  Instead, they are running with a specific goal in mind, to compete and win a medal at the Olympics.

Athletes want to be the best at their sport.  Programmers want to build amazing PROGRAMS!  Once you have a basic understanding of programming, find a cool app you’d like to build and go for it.  That’s always the best way to learn.  I’ve always learned more about programming when I had something I wanted to build than when I sat down and said “I’m gonna learn about X.”  That is the best advice I could ever give you.

Go out and start coding!

Want to read the rest of the How I Taught Myself to Code Series?

Read Part 1: Hello World!

Read Part 2: Avoiding the Cliff

#KidsCanCode Chat: Debugging My Coding Lesson Plan

KidsCanCode: Debugging my coding lesson plan
What did we talk about in this week’s #KidsCanCode chat? Well, we discussed our greatest success/failures from last year’s coding lesson plans, outlined what we learned, and set goals for the changes we plan on making going into the new school year! 🙂

How I Taught Myself to Code: Hello World!

I had to use keyboard commands like a dinosaur

There are so many resources out there for learning to code these days that it can be next to impossible to know where to start.  As the sole programmer for Kodable (for now – we’re hiring!), I am completely self-taught.  I have never taken a formal programming class in my entire life.

In less than 4 years, I taught myself everything I needed to know to build an app that is currently used by over a million kids around the world.

In this 3-part series, I will share with you my journey from learning to code at 6 to founding Kodable. Hopefully this will inspire your own programming journey!

Back In the Dinosaur Age

My first initial exposure to programming was when I was only 6 years old. I learned programming on this ancient Toshiba computerMy computer was an old Toshiba that looked exactly like this ➜  Remember those days?  Truthfully, I was always in trouble as a child.  If you don’t believe me, ask my parents, but be sure to put aside a few hours.  Anyways, I was always grounded, and my parents would let me play on this ancient computer because they refused to believe that I could have any fun on it.

The battery didn’t work, so I could only use it plugged in, and it didn’t even have a mouse! I had to use keyboard shortcuts like some kind of caveman or dinosaur!

I had to use keyboard commands like a dinosaur Eventually, I started tinkering with the system and ended up finding the BASIC compiler in MS-DOS.  After playing with it for a bit I ended up having my parents take me to Barnes and Noble to buy a few programming books.  This led to the creation of my first program, which was a password program that would start when you booted up the computer.  If the user entered the password correctly, the program would let you access the computer.  But if the user inputed the wrong password, it would say, “You’re an idiot! Try again.”  Like I said, I was always causing trouble as a kid.

After this, I continued tinkering for a few months and even tried to tackle C++, but that turned out to be a bit too intimidating for me at the time, and I ended up losing interest.  I didn’t program again until halfway through college 15 years later.

Learning to Code (Again)

Learning programming on basic as a young studentEven though I wasn’t writing code, the way I had learned to think like a programmer stayed with me.  In school, I would constantly find myself analyzing problems using programmer logic.  For example, I would often look at things in terms of if-then-else statements: If this happens, I will do X, otherwise I will do Y.  This ability was invaluable as I made my way through high school, college, and especially when I began to teach myself programming.

As a student at the University of Louisville in the Entrepreneurship program, I knew I wanted to start my own business.  I also knew that I wanted to do something in technology, but it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn’t do this without some sort of technical ability.

At the time, it was too late to change my major, and I also didn’t want to rely on someone else to build my dream for me.

I decided to teach myself programming (again)So halfway through college, I decided to teach myself programming (again).

In Part 2 of this series, I will detail exactly how I carved my path through the maze of programming materials available, and hopefully give you some friendly advice and direction for your own journey as well!

Read Part 2: Avoiding the Cliff

Kodable Webinar: How Do I Use My Teacher Account?

Did you miss the Kodable Webinar and still want to learn more about how to use and manage a Teacher Account?  Watch our instructional webinar here!  During this session we cover:

  • Creating an account
  • Creating classes
  • Adding students
  • Managing levels
  • Tracking student progress
  • Utilizing Kodable Learning Guides

We also update you on Kodable’s latest features, as well as those that are coming soon.  Check it out! 🙂

How did we do?  Share your feedback with us below!

Would you like us to organize a webinar around a specific topic?  Feel free to comment with suggestions!