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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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! 🙂

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

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