We’d been thinking about coding for a while, but in a busy school finding the right time to begin something new is always a challenge. During one of our regular lunchtime computer club sessions two students were using scratch. After a quick chat it was decided that the right time to start was right now. These students were learning as they went, surely others could too (teachers included!)
Working with our school technician, an accomplished coder, we decided to implement a five week trial project to introduce our kids to the world of coding. Our intention was simply to get an idea of how we might implement this next year and how we might manage it on a larger scale.
Ten students attended the first session in their lunch hour. We began with the hour of code and these students quickly progressed through the activities here. Our students use an Office 365 site and newsfeed app to keep their learning conversations going outside of scheduled sessions. The newsfeed proved to be a valuable source of information and encouragement for learners. Regular posts by participants and viewable by the wider Year 7 and 8 learning community meant that our code club kept growing.
Then we began introducing some of the specific terminology related to coding such as events, variables, procedures and parameters. Our students were keen to explore each new concept before combining ideas. There was lots of chatter between computers, checking, trying, and checking again. The end of the session came and nobody wanted to leave!
Our third session saw the arrival of several new students all keen to try out this coding business. Although they had missed a couple of lessons our expert students soon had them up and running. Time between each session proved beneficial. This gave students time to explore and play with each new concept and time to share what they could do. Our students have used code to create virtual pets, and solve problems such as guessing how many jelly beans are in the jar at our annual carnival.
Our future plans include introducing games based applications like Kodu and Project Spark. Here students build, play and share games, worlds and their own stories. It’s easy to see how tools like these can be integrated into other curriculum areas to strengthen learning. We hope to include volunteers from within our community to help develop our programmes.
Coding can seem daunting at first, but the trick is to make sure students can see teachers as learners too. Sharing responsibility for learning is easier when you are not the expert yourself. Learning how to code thrives on mistakes. Figuring out where it’s not quite right is where learning is maximised. No need for perfection at first, just a willingness to give it a go.