“I want to introduce technology and coding to my lesson plans, but I am not quite sure how to align this with the Common Core State Standards?”
This is a common question for many teachers, and often half the battle is finding the right resources to make this possible. In last night’s #KidsCanCode chat, we discussed a number of resources to help guide teachers to properly aligning their curriculum with the Common Core. Here are some of the resources we came across:
Assembled by Ben Rimes, this is an enormously valuable resource that not only has gleaned every standard related to technology from the CCSS, but is meticulously organized and easy-to-follow. The sections are delineated by standards, starting with ELA and proceeding to Math. Each section is then broken down by grade level, similar to the actual standards themselves, but presenting much less information to process.
For those interested in just the ELA Standards, this is another resource that I recommend checking out that was put together by Tara Linney (@TechTeacherT). Again, pulled directly from the Common Core State Standards, sections are separated by grade level, making for easy reading and unnecessary to skim through the entire original document itself.
Ever need something to send to parents? This might be a resource worth checking out. The Standards are broken down in this parent-friendly version for all of K-8 with a separate Middle School & High School Section. There is also a section that answers a common question (pun intended), “What is the Common Core?” for parents. This site also has sample/practice test questions, and other valuable CCSS related materials.
If you are looking for more resources relating to technology/coding and the Common Core, be sure to check out the #CCSSchat website. And as always the original Common Core Standards can be found on CoreStandards.org.
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
I 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!
A 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.
4. 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 Literature 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!
When 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. If 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.
Want to read the rest of the How I Taught Myself to Code Series?
In this week’s edition of #KidsCanCode we teamed up with @CODEfilm to discuss the ways we can debug the gender gap and help girls overcome the cultural barriers they face in CS and STEM fields. We also chatted about the likelihood of a future Disney Princess Coding Movie. 🙂
Be sure to check out the documentary teaser:
School is BACK! Are you ready? Let’s go ahead and get you fit for your first day so you can get back to school and start the year off right!
1. Wake up early, grab a coffee, and get a head start.
Because we know all too well that this is going to get more difficult…
2. Fall back in love with your classroom.
And everything in it…
Including your students!
3. Flaunt your new technology.
(Books are so last century)
4. Put those amazing lesson plans you spent all summer on into action.
(Still too soon…we will return to that joke later in the year.)
5. Get back in your school year routine.
6. But don’t forget to lean on your friends…
And don’t worry…
Because this year is going to be AWESOME!
Where Do I Start?
The first thing I did was tackle HTML and CSS. I want to be very clear on this point, this is NOT programming. Coding is a mindset, you need to be able to problem solve and think logically. There is very little (if any) of this with HTML and CSS. Now, that is not to say these aren’t valuable skills to have, but don’t fall into the trap of “learning to code” by writing some basic HTML. Some experienced programmers may roll their eyes at you and tell you that you’ve still got a long way to go.
Choosing A Language
With the exception of HTML and CSS, the language you choose to learn doesn’t matter! I spent more time learning what a “for” loop was when I first started programming than I did learning Ruby after I had 2 years of experience under my belt.
The most important thing with programming is to start making progress and begin learning.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in people trying to teach themselves programming is that they get too caught up in which language they want to learn. Don’t do that. Trust me, it doesn’t matter. To make sure you don’t fall into this trap, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do.
Picking a Project
First, find out what kind of applications you want to build. If you have a PC and want to make Windows applications, learn C#. If you have a Mac, learn Python. If you want to make web apps, Ruby is a good choice, but you can also use Python. If all else fails, learn Python. It’s an excellent language that teaches you how to structure programs correctly and just generally program the “right” way.
Avoiding the Cliff
I consider my first real “language” to be C#, a C-based language developed by Microsoft used in a vast number of Windows applications and websites. The best thing that ever happened in my journey to learn programming was finding a book called Head First C#. Most programming books start with helpful, guided tutorials in chapter 1, and then drop you off a cliff and expect you to just know everything. The Head First series makes it a point to do the opposite. They make it a point to translate programming concepts into something that “normal” people can understand, and deliberately avoid the aforementioned “cliff” problem. I can’t say enough good things about these books, they’re simply awesome.
Setting Achievable Goals
Painters never sit down and decide to paint, they always have an idea of what they want to paint when they get started. Programming is the same way. As a full-time programmer, I never sit down in front a computer and just say “I’m gonna program!” They have a goal in mind, something they want to accomplish. You should always endeavor to do the same.
Becoming a Pro
I started learning C# my senior year of college, and spent about 8 months with it before I graduated. As graduation came closer, I was trying to find a job. This was at the height of the recession, and there just weren’t that many opportunities out there, especially for people with marketing degrees. Lucky for me, I had spent the past year honing my coding skills!
I went in for my interview with a newfound confidence in my programming abilities. I was able to breeze through the questions they asked, and got an offer later that day. I had successfully taught myself enough programming to get a job as a full-time, professional software developer. Mission accomplished!
Now that you’ve heard about my journey to become a full-time programmer, in Part 3 of this series, I will give you a set of rules, tips, and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully they’ll be as helpful for you as they have been for me.
Greg Satell astutely points out that the average teenager today has more access to information than even a genius working at a top research facility 50 years ago. Retaining knowledge is slowly becoming obsolete, but the ability to work with others, collaborate, and understand patterns still remains inherently human. (Via Forbes Opinions)
Considering a BYOD program and looking for the right resources? The Consortium of School Networking is making knowledge on BYOD programs and mobile learning more accessible through its Mobile Learning Initiative. Gain some basic insights, and learn how to access their resources in this article! (via MindShift)
What happens when a tech billionaire sits down with an amazing teacher? Read/watch their conversation as they discuss the Common Core, ELL students, pedagogy, and professional development. (via EdSurge)
Help students realize that owning their mistakes actually empowers them because it provides them with the opportunity to fix their errors. Great resource for those with a programming curriculum! (via Terri Eichholz & Engage Their Minds)
Read more about the ways three different teachers in rural, urban, and immigrant communities are handling BYOD issues, including trust, equity, and student-centered learning. (via MindShift)
Want to chat more about tech, STEM, and coding? Join us for our #KidsCanCode Twitter Chat every Tuesday @8pm EST!
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. My 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!
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)
Even 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.
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!