Coding in the classroom, lesson #1

So, today I started my investigation on using coding in a kindergarten classroom, and was pleasantly surprised with some of the outcomes.

I worked in a small group with three students in senior kindergarten, whom I was thinking may have a good grasp and understanding of potentially ‘getting coding’. I began with a statement; which maybe next group I would revamp. My question was simple “What is coding?”, these are some of the responses:

  1. Its like cold, Colby, Coat (I guess that’s the kinder letter relation to the extreme; i.e., Coding starts with a ‘c’ sound just like Cold, Colby and Coat)…..kids eh?!!?
  2. Putting codes into a cake (not sure about that one)
  3. Something you type into a phone to get into it like mommys cell phone (ok now we are getting somewhere.
  4. A secret password or code word to get into a treehouse for only specific people.
  5. Codes are like buttons on a keyboard or numbers on phones.
So, a little bit of everything out there, it was interesting to watch the process of learning “What is Coding” during this 30-45 minute small group learning session. From here I used my kids ipad mini’s and introduced Box Island (The most simplest form and means of coding I could find – this is ONLY ISO right now but a Microsoft Tablet program close to it is called Turtle coding for Kids).
I let the three SK’s try the first two lessons on their own without letting them talk with each other. I said no sharing and helping, you can only try yourself and see what you can figure out for 3-5 minutes. What I seen was sheer frustration and madness, some of the facial features where priceless, but told me that they needed each other to problem solve.
So, regroup; we had a talk about what was troublesome. The three shared that they didn’t know what to do with the box (Called Hiro), so I let them talk it out. They were sharing with each other that they would pull down a direction arrow (code key) and then hit the play button but the box fell into water and it kept saying try again, they were all frustrated. I said, “Think about the problem and what you need to do to solve it”.
Teamwork is HUGE in our classroom as Krista (DECE) and I always try to model this to our students, teaching students and colleagues! So, the three set forth and began talking things out, which was adorably cute. Ms. Rylee took the lead and within 5-8 mintues they figured out that the Box (Aka Hiro) wants to get his blanket at the end. They decided they would try altogether on one ipad.
I thought ok lets see what happens: they tried again all huddled around one screen, failed, failed and failed again. I so wanted to take over and show them but George Corous says ‘being an innovator means stepping back and prompting others to succeed’, so I said “Maybe if we used math we could figure things out, cause I heard one of you say ‘coding is like the numbers on mommys cell phone – the password to get in” Funny misconfused faces staring at me! Too funny, but ‘give it a try guys’
They started counting the squares and Ms. Rylee was able to figure out they needed to have 1 direction per block on the page. Now we are getting somewhere! Ms. Layla was able to also determine that “the blocks are now straight, so the arrows must mean turn this way”, we are getting super warm now, Mr. Colby dragged some directions down on screen (not enough to solve the question but tried) pushed play and…….failed. Determined they added one more line of code, pushed play and got a wee bit further but not to the end, therefore failed. After adding a few more lines of code together they solved it! It was awesome to see the smiling faces!! Success, they each grabbed an Ipad Mini and set forth on their own!
Box Island is pretty cool as it lets you try out 15 lessons, which grow in complexity before having to purchase the program (Which gets kids hooked before parents have to cough up the money, sneaky, sneaky but brilliant!). I am going to have to remember this when I write my own apps in the future!
I let the three take off own their own until each had finished lessons up to 8. We reconvened and revisted the question “What is Coding”. Ms. Rylee; otherwise know as Ms. Smartie Pants by her mother said “Maybe Coding itself is more about Problem Solving the Mistakes along the way, the code itself is TEAMWORK” she continued “Without working together we would not have been abe to solve it on our own” Adorably cute eh!?!? All year long Ms. Smartie Pants comes out with stuff like this all the time! Love it!!
At the recent Canconnect Ed Tech conference in Niagara; Angela Maiers spoke of Choose2Matter and showing students that they Matter everyday; so using my newfound knowledge I obtained from Angela I decided to roll with it!! Yes, Rylee you are right part of Coding is problem solving and teamwork, (with a little Corous’ on the side), collaboration and working together makes things so much better with help and support from one another. Layla, Colby and Rylee then shared the following once validated that they Matter, that THEY did it together and THEY did an amazing job!
Here is what they shared:
1. Coding is like math because you have to add lines of code like the arrows and when you make mistakes you are either adding more lines of code or taking some away until you solve the problem infront of you.
2. Its problem solving like the stuff that makes you think, which IS math because its hard.
3. There are steps in the problem, like with math.
4. Some of the problems have lots of steps (i.e., the boxes that need to be moved in order to get somewhere you have to go).
5. The more steps in each problem requires harder math questions like adding and subtracting at the same time.
So, walking away from this actual experience what I currently know is that coding comes in three stages: statements, loops and what if statements. Math itself is problem, solution to problem and answer, three steps too.
Is coding just math?!!? Not sure as mentioned I am only a beginner and learning along with the kids. I do know scratch is graphical codes, which are basically electronic computer based language which behind that scene is all binary, which is all 1’s and 0’s, so maybe it IS math…..
Guess we will find out……

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