Kodable Road Tour: Day 7

After finishing Day 6 of our #KodableRoadTour in Boston, we decided to switch things up a little bit and flew to Chicago to check out what was happening in programming education in the Midwest! Today’s stops included: Chicago Jewish Day School and Middlefork School.

Stop #1: Chicago Jewish Day School

We arrived in Chicago late Monday night, and were ready to get started coding when we were warmly welcomed to Chicago Jewish Day School on Tuesday morning. ūüôā

What we learned: Ask 3 then me rule is a lifesaver

As the students progress in Kodable, it can get challenging. Sometimes, when a student first looks at a level, they turn to look at you, and immediately feel that they are going to need help. Most time however, this is not the case! At Chicago Jewish Day School we found that the ask 3 then me rule worked to perfection, and students worked even better when they collaborated with each other to solve a Kodable lesson. When a student asked me for help, the first thing I would ask them is if they had consulted a friend first. After this, all of them were eager to go to their classmates for help, and this turned out to be an amazing learning experience for all.

Favorite moment: Labeling your iPads by state and animals is a fantastic idea

When we were helping Alex pass out her students iPad’s at Chicago Jewish Day School, we noticed that some sported the names of states and others had animals names on the back/front. When calling out and asking the students whose iPad was West Virginia, we realized that this was a great idea to organize the iPads in this way. Students were asking for the names of various states and animals while receiving their iPads to begin coding, making for a great learning experience. We are always coming across some amazing techniques as we travel to classrooms across the country, but this one was particularly original and also quite funny. Never thought I would see a student calling out for Oregon or searching so hard for California.

The future forecast: Sunny, with a chance of more coding!

Alex and her students were excited to complete the unplugged fuzzFamily frenzy activity, and were also thrilled to do more with Kodable in the future. We were really excited to be able to stop by and see how far they have gotten already with coding. We are always so impressed by our young learners, but especially the students we met at Chicago Jewish Day School.

Stop #2: Middlefork School 

What we learned: Explaining conditions by testing

While at Middlefork School we discovered a great new way to help teach conditions to your students in Kodable. Conditions can be tough, and we often are brainstorming and trying to find new ways to explain them to our young learners. However, Grechen and I found during this particular session that a good way to help the students learn is by helping them first go over their options and test.

When presented with a condition:

First, instruct the student to simply not use a condition, and watch what the fuzz does when it rolls. 

Next, instruct the student to try the same segment of code when using a condition, and discover what happens then. 

We found that presenting students with all their options really clarified the function of conditions, and cemented in the idea of when it was necessary to use a condition, and when one was not needed.

Another good way to present conditions in Kodable is as a decision making tile. Does your fuzz need to change direction? If yes, then you need a condition, if no, then a condition is not necessary.


Favorite moment:¬†At the end of our workshop we met with Jen’s coding club for a great question and answer session. And we for sure were not disappointed! One question we received from a student very interested in coding was particularly impressive, and even had us talking for awhile after the workshop concluded. This particular student was a 3rd grader, and asked us if “we chose to code Kodable in Java because it is platform independent?” From a 3rd grader! It just goes to show that the sooner that students are introduced to programming the sooner they can start doing and learning amazing things. I never thought in my life that I would hear the words Java come out of a students mouth when speaking about programming.

The future: Much more things to come courtesy of Jen Gilbert! (@msgilbertrocks)

Jen always stays super busy and has a number of projects in the works. ūüôā Jen hopes to increase the amount of time that her students are able to program during the week, as well as add more resources and tools to her growing programming curriculum. Jen has a very successful coding club and has generated a lot of interest amongst her students, but she hopes that she can also continue to expand this, meeting more and taking on more coding projects/challenges. And of course, Jen plans to continue using Kodable! ūüôā

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Thanks so much to our Day 7 teachers, students, and schools!

Join Our Kodable Webinar

Enroll in a Kodable Free Teacher Account to manage your students.

On Wednesday, August 13th @ 10am PDT, we will be hosting an instructional webinar to help you set up and organize your Kodable Teacher Account. Learn how to add classes or students, create differentiated lesson plans, and familiarize yourself with our latest features.  Additionally, we will answer any questions you may have going into the new school year.

RSVP to the Kodable Webinar on our Google Event Page.

Respond yes to Kodable Webinar on Google Event Page
Respond Yes to the Kodable Webinar on our Google Event Page

The webinar will be broadcasted over Google Hangouts On Air, and you can submit any questions you want answered on our Webinar Google Event Page.

Submit your questions on the google event page
Submit Your Questions on our Webinar Google Event Page

Hope to see you then!

5 Ways to Teach Programming Like The Hobbit

teach programming like the hobbit

Wait a second; I know what you are thinking.  What on earth does instituting a programming curriculum in your class or school have to do with The Hobbit? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot actually.

Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Don't be afraid to embark on an adventureRecently, after reading the story of Aimee Morgan, a Stanford University Libraries archivist who first learned to computer program at the age of 35, I began thinking about how it is never too late to:

Begin something new, push aside all apprehensions, let down the sails, raise the flag, and set course on an epic adventure towards uncharted lands.

With that in mind, I am by no means encouraging you to walk out of your front door, commandeer the nearest vehicle, and embark on a quest to slay dragons (unless this has always been your goal).  I am, however, urging you to develop in areas outside of your comfort zone.  For many, this means teaching programming.

Bilbo would have jumped right into a programming curriculum if given the chance

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is a small, eclectic, and reserved character that is reluctant to change his ways.  When initially presented with the opportunity to join in on a fantastical journey to regain the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo refuses, as this would force him into a world that he was neither prepared for nor felt comfortable in.  However, after spending some time soul searching, Bilbo ultimately opts into the quest, and becomes an integral part of an adventure that will forever be a part of hobbit lore.

Leap Into Programming
Take the first leap into programming

For many, integrating coding into your classroom lesson plan or school curriculum requires this type of ‚ÄúBilbo moment.‚Ä̬† Like our favorite protagonist, many educators often harbor feelings that computer science and technology is part of a world in which they are simply unprepared for, or to which they do not belong.¬† However, based on the teachings of The Hobbit, and from personal experience talking to teachers using Kodable, the hardest part of integrating technology and programming into the classroom is, like anything else, just taking that first step.¬† When speaking with educators who are considering making the leap towards a programming curriculum, but are still hesitant, I often cite the following quote:

“Never be afraid to try something new. ¬†Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”

Programmers can read, write, and understand code, but teachers know best how to translate this material to their students in a language that they can grasp, and most importantly, engage with.  Certainly, some programming knowledge is always helpful, but introducing the fundamentals of coding, and showing students the amazing things that they can do with code is something that every teacher can understand.

Utilize your strengths when teaching codeFlex Your Muscles

As hard as it is to believe, not having a background in computer science or programming can often be your greatest asset.  In The Hobbit, Bilbo’s lack of survival training and inexperience in battle became his most useful tools, and led him to find the ring, save the dwarves, aid in defeating Smaug, and recover the Arkenstone.  On the other hand, the dwarves stubborn reliance on their combat training often get them in trouble, allowing Bilbo to introduce creative solutions.

The beauty of learning to code is that you can use the skill in any industry you find interesting.We need diverse programmers  More than anything, computer science needs artists, fashion designers, or those with a passion for social justice.  Showing students that you can use code in every subject from English to environmental science will help prepare a generation of young students for the challenges of the 21st century.  Coding to solve problems shows students how they can use computer science to help make our world a better place to live.

Don't be afraid to let go of your fearsDon’t Be Afraid to¬†Let Go

In The Hobbit, Bilbo was forced to let go of his fears and reservations.  He let his natural instincts and talents lead him to greatness.  Don’t be afraid to let go of your students, and allow them to become immersed in programming.  Great programmers like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates taught themselves to code.  You can facilitate your student’s coding education by encouraging them, but you don’t need to have all the answers.  A programming curriculum like Kodable engages students so they can get started with programming education on their own.  So, what do students need most?

They need you teach them innovation, and help them understand how they can creatively apply, utilize, and further their programming talents.

Make Lifelong FriendsBilbo made lasting friends, and you can to when you begin teaching programming

Bilbo did not make his journey alone, but had great friends help him along the way.  You do not need to be alone in your journey either.  When we started Kodable, there were very few people teaching kids to code.  We started a biweekly Twitter Chat called #KidsCanCode to be a community for people to talk about programming education.  There are dozens of teachers who join regularly to talk about struggles and triumphs of creating their own programming curriculum.
Join a community of programmersOnce Bilbo established that he was fully committed to his journey, he never once regretted his decision to leave his comfortable home in the Shire.  Instead, he relished the friends that he made, the experiences they shared, and the positive impact that his actions had on his surrounding community.  Similarly, I promise you that your decision to introduce a programming curriculum in your classroom or school is one that you will never regret.

Why Should We Teach Programming?

Are you on the¬†fence on whether or not you should introduce a programming curriculum next school year? ¬†The easy answer is that you ABSOLUTELY should! ¬†But, for those who are not as easily convinced, we have put together a list of the top 10 reasons why we believe coding¬†should be taught to every child. ūüôā

The images included here are also part of a PowerPoint you can use to help explain the value of programming to fellow educators, parents, and students.

Reasons to Begin Programming:

Reason #1

Programming Help Wanted!  We NEED more young developers to help program all of the flying cars we will have in the future!

Not enough programmers

Currently, students and adults with programming abilities are a hot commodity, and all signs suggest that there will be an even higher demand for their abilities in the future. ¬†Just to be completely sure, I consulted my Magic 8-Ball and asked, “Will there be more opportunities for Computer Science Students in the future?” ¬†The answer?¬†“Without a Doubt.” ¬†If you don’t believe in magic, allow some more of these statistics convince you.

Computer science is America's untapped opportunity

As our world continues to turn to technology more and more each day, it becomes increasingly critical for students to possess a programming education.  Not every student needs to become a computer programmer.  However, statistics demonstrate that a background in computer science will be an enormous asset for the future in ANY field.

Reason #2

Millions of kids are already coding and creating amazing things at this very moment.  Estonia, China, Britain, and other countries require every student to be introduced to coding.  Sometimes, peer pressure can be a positive thing!

Kids are already coding

Reason #3

Like many basic skills, it is best to start teaching children to code while they are still young.  Trust me, they will thank you later!

Learning early benefits students

Amazingly, Child Development Research demonstrates that children can learn the fundamentals of coding before they can even read!  While programming may seem enormously complicated to many adults, similar to a foreign language, kids can absorb and retain new information at an amazing pace.

Learn to code before you can read

Additionally, the skills that young children pick up through practicing basic programming skills will help them in a wide variety of subjects.

Advantages of coding in elementary school

Reason #4

Programming is like an easygoing friend that gets along with everyone.  Always flexible, coding can be integrated into a variety of different subjects.  And the best part?  Programming can help serve as a bridge to connect students to their community.  Just take a look at the East Palo Alto Chica Squad below.

Integrate coding in any school subject


East Palo Alto Chica Squad:


Reason #5

Coding can also be used to satisfy a number of CCSS standards, providing you with an engaging, valuable, and easy way to fulfill curriculum requirements!

Meet common core standards with programming

Reason #6

Quick True or False question: “Programmers are anti-social and only interact with computers.”

FALSE!  Programming is an extremely social activity, and encourages students to work together in order to plan, develop, and problem solve.  Just ask any class that has practiced Pair Programming!

Coding encourages collaboration

Reason #7

As a child, I used to wonder what it would be like to possess a superpower. ¬†Little did I know, all I had to do was learn how to code, and I could have an impact on the world around me! ¬†Don’t just teach children how to interact with technology, but educate them on how to¬†create with technology.

Computer programming empowers students

Reason #8

Can I trust you to keep a secret that might anger a few professional programmers?  Are you ready?  Coding is not THAT difficult!  Phew, I said it.  Seriously though, anyone can learn or teach basic computer programming skills with a little effort.  Join in the growing community of educators teaching kids to code.  We have a bi-weekly Twitter Chat called #KidsCanCode where you can share or learn from others teaching kids about coding!

Teachers can teach coding without experience

Reason #9

Learning to code increases the ways in which children can express themselves and pursue their passions.  Watch how Miral Kotb worked to create her dream job with code!  You can watch her amazing story below.

Coding is creative


Miral Kotb’s iLuminate:

Reason #10

The best time for kids to start coding is now! Let’s create a better world together!

#kidscancode and are coding everywhere

Download the Why Programming PowerPoint Here!


More questions on getting started with coding?! Contact me: neal@kodable.com



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