So, after walking away from the recent Canconnect Conference in Niagara Falls this past weekend I decided one (of many others) tasks I would set my mind to was coding. Getting to know what it is, how it works, finding the best programs for my target audience; primary students, most significantly kindergarten but open to k-3 for future too.
Well, I started searching and using a few applications such ScratchJr and Scratch Lite, which are not the most user friendly for first time users trying to understanding what coding is at its most basic levels. So the search continued until I found Kodable, The Foos (which is cute) and my personal favourite Box Island. These are ISO type applications, so within our Board I was searching and found ‘Turtle; coding for kids’ within the Microsoft Store which are somewhat similar (although less visually appealing), however these are a few ‘go-to’s’ that I would recommend for the most basic of first time users to see, get a feel for and begin to understand what coding is about.
Coding itself for those who would like to know can be done through two means; graphical programming such as Scratch and also electronic (more advanced) and robotic programming; which for the purpose of this posting I will avoid discussing for now until I can actually understanding it more thoroughly myself.
I also looked into Minecraft, which with luck I also found a 14 lesson tutorial on the basics of coding for writing graphical programming by means of statements, cycles / repeats / and what if statements. All of which are embedded within all programing both graphical and electronically, just by different means in language.
Coding by the way is basically a new language itself that you have to see and understand to fully be aware of the true power and ability of writing codes. So, as a beginner users I thoroughly love Box Island (which has 14 activities / lessons for free, than you have to purchase the program for $5.99). It is what I would call visually appealing yet stimulating coding at the most primitive levels, through graphical programming with the four basic directions (left, right, up and down).
If you are interested, but totally new I would suggest starting here with this application.
The other suggestion I would have would be to visit Minecraft and embedded within the beginning page there is an option to do an ‘Hour of Coding’ which then gives you 14 general / basic lessons on coding. You also walk away with a certificate, that you can show off too (You can see mine @ArcherJoe on twitter). This is a cool option for primary students as we could do the hour of coding on minecraft, walk away with a certificate that could be printed out and shared with people, that would give students a general understanding of three types of code; statements, repeats and cycles and what if statements.
Back to Box Island, I use my son; Xander as a guinea pig, like I always do with anything new (poor kid) maybe next year I will cycle through my twin girls too, then its not all on him. Anyways Xander gave Box Island a whirl and after a couple lessons supported by the ‘best daddy ever’ (me), he tried a few on his own. Now, I like to sit back and observe and take notes and learn myself for implementation into my teaching practice in the classroom. So, Xander struggled at first on his own but after a few attempts he found out and indicated that ‘This is just math dad’. I followed up, ‘How so?’, here is his statement; ‘Well when you move to what ever direction you move to you need to count the spaces so you are adding, but you also take away when you have to backtrack and go around things after completing a task to get one step closer to the end’
So plain and simple; starting off coding all you are teaching and doing is basic addition and subtraction of graphical interpretations of what you are visually understanding. Obviously coding is so much more, but for a beginners understanding lets just say that its that.
Not too sure if this helps, or has been informative but it is what it is, this helpls me understand and reflect on my practice so take it as you will!