After a super successful Hour of Code last fall, I have been tasked (along with my courageous Middle School Head) to create a 7/8 elective in Coding/Computer Science/Etc. I resisted for a long time with questions such as:
- “Are we just jumping on the hit parade band wagon?”
- “Do our middle schoolers really need this?”
- “What has to give from their other courses for kids to take this class?”
- “Why would I, a person with music ed, ed leadership, and curriculum integration skills, be the right person to teach a course in coding?”
- “How do we differentiate a class that is appealing for our advanced coders (like our amazing app writer) as well as to our kids who think it would be cool to try something new but have no experience?”
So we answered them:
- Maybe, but this is about thinking skills, so we are cool with it either way.
- Yes, this is their time to taste lots of disciplines and so a this amuse bouche of coding comes at the perfect time.
- Nothing, we with our new six day schedule this will be an additional choice in the visual art rotation.
- It is about project management, thinking skills, and facilitation more than actual content knowledge of coding, so yup, I’m going to be ok. (This answer took the most convincing and cajoling by my MSH and Dir of C&I.)
- We work collaboratively, providing both leadership and independent work opportunities for our advanced kids. We create differentiated experiences where the outcome is more about thinking skill and process, rather than product.
Now comes the tough work, design the course. Where to start? Information gathering!! I’ve looked at countless approaches to how to teach “kids to code”. We have all the iPad apps. We have an account with idTECH365. We’ve played with code.org. We’ve purchased some Raspberry Pi devices. I’ve played Code Combat, Minecraft, and Scratch. We’ve downloaded STEM and CS standards from the state and national level. I’ve saved #kidscancode to our hootsuite feed.
At this point, we need to sit in a room and ask some more questions:
- What is important? (For me it is thinking skills over language.)
- What are our major objectives? (I’m thinking we have three major units surrounding EQ’s.)
- What are our resources?
- What is our timeline?
We will have many more questions to answer this week as we buckle down and hash out a curriculum. We also know that curriculum is a living thing and that it will grow and change with our students. We know there are many crossroads on the coding path and we’ll choose what is best for our kids and gives them the most out of their experience. More than anything, I want them to be empowered to learn and try new things. For our advanced kids that might mean exploring a part of coding they haven’t tried before or using their skills to teach others and for our newbies it might mean having them try something out of their comfort zone.
I’m trying to practice what I preach in terms of teaching and learning right now; stepping out of my area of comfort and working to design an innovative, creative, and engaging course. Allowing for the students to be the leaders (with measured facilitation of course) and for them to take hold of their own learning process. This is an exciting adventure, time to jump in!