Creative Coding and Robots in the Classroom
Two common computer science misconceptions are that it’s just about programming and that only teachers with computer science degrees should teach it. Carrie Willis, Technology Director for Valley Preparatory School and Strategic Outreach Manager for Wonder Workshop, and Caitlin Arakawa, Kindergarten Teacher at Valley Preparatory School, dispel these misconceptions, during a recent edWebinar. They highlighted that soft skills critical to student success in future fields of study such as logic, problem-solving and creativity are integral components of computer science curriculums. Teachers do not need computer science degrees to engage, enhance and extend student coding experiences due to the abundance of easily accessible creative coding and robotics programs. Using coding software, offline and online coding activities, and resources found on websites such as Code.org, students and teachers together use a design thinking process to understand, define, ideate, plan, build and test coding-based projects. Willis and Arakawa underscored the importance of creating learning environments in which students and teachers understand that it is not about getting it right the first time; it is about failing forward and being inspired to keep moving forward.
Nearpod is a powerful teaching and learning tool that promotes student engagement in the classroom. The K-12 coding lessons introduce students to programming languages through content that is relatable to their own life experiences. Using customizable coding lessons, students learn to code through engaging and collaborative language arts and mathematics activities. Kodable is an online introduction to coding and algorithmic thinking for students of any age and experience. Using the Kodable tutorials, students learn necessary program language skills such as problem solving, computational thinking, sequence, conditions, loops, functions and debugging. In the online scavenger hunt platform, GooseChase, teachers create scavenger hunt type games with coding missions that even the littlest coders can master. As early as kindergarten, Common Core math requires students to see math abstractly with numbers, concretely with objects, and visually with pictures. Incorporating block-based visual programming languages such as ScratchJr and Scratch, students engage in coding activities with pictorial representations of math concepts that are both appropriate for younger students and challenging for older students. Dash and Dot are programmable robots that target students in grades K-8 with progression apps that are customizable for optimal learning in the classroom.
Coding can be an abstract concept and difficult for some students to comprehend. Using concrete and tangible offline and online coding activities is an effective way to introduce algorithmic thinking through individualized learning experiences. These types of coding activities engage student through movement, collaboration, and even exposure to fresh air and sunshine. Whether it is creating mazes on an asphalt playground or taping off math squares on a classroom floor, students are given opportunities to collaborate as coders, debuggers and human robots. A gingerbread coding activity paired with various gingerbread books can be great cross-curricular activities where students use logic and programming skills to create a “safe” path to a gingerbread house. When students need to get their wiggle on, Dance Party: Unplugged from Code.org is a creative and engaging activity to introduce common programming terminology such as events. These coding activities also require little teacher prep and apply to beginner programmers of all ages.
The “All-Inclusive” Lesson
Balloons over Broadway created by Arakawa for her kindergarten class is an “all-inclusive” STEAM project that hits a variety of standards in many domains. Students read Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, use Nearpod to take a virtual field trip to the parade, and take a Macys.com video tour of the engineering and design process behind the scenes of the parade’s balloons production. Using Seesaw, students design their floats and write a persuasive letter to get Macy’s to pick their balloon for the parade. Arakawa includes robots into the mix by having students draw their balloon designs on paper, attach it to a balloon and secure the balloon to a Dash robot. Students then tape out the parade routes and draw landmarks connected to boxes and set their programmed balloons along the parade route using Blockly, a Wonder Workshop app. Arakawa extends the lesson by collecting student work, recording the design thinking process and creating a top three balloons Google Form for parents and other teacher groups to vote. This online/offline creative coding and robotics activity gives students a wider audience for their work consequently motivating them to put their best effort forward as well as creating a sense of pride and accomplishment.
This edWeb webinar was sponsored by Wonder Workshop.
This article was modified and published by EdScoop.
About the Presenters
Carrie Willis is the technology director and STEAM coordinator at Valley Preparatory School, a private school in Redlands, CA, educating students in grades preschool through eight. She was responsible for the design and implementation of her school’s recent STEAM lab addition, which was established in 2016. During her 17-year teaching career, she has developed a love for educational technology and project-based learning. Carrie helps to inspire educators not just on her own campus, but around the world, by sharing her love for coding, robotics, movie production, engineering and design, and all things STEAM and edtech, through social media and presentations at local and national conferences. Carrie is also a strategic outreach manager at Wonder Workshop.
Caitlin Arakawa is a kindergarten teacher at Valley Preparatory School in Redlands, CA, and a lover of all things technology. She takes every opportunity possible to infuse technology into her daily lessons. She is an enthusiastic and relatable educator who likes to learn, share and connect with her fellow colleagues. Caitlin is an Apple Teacher, as well as a teacher ambassador for educational platforms such as Nearpod, ClassDojo and Discovery Education.
Join the Community
Coding & Robotics K-8 is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that supports teachers, administrators, and all educators to help students explore coding and robotics and develop math, logic, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and challenges them to think creatively.
Wonder Workshop creates engaging, hands-on learning tools, programming languages, and curriculum that bring STEM and coding to life for grades K-8. Robotics fosters critical thinking skills at an early age, encourages creativity, and turns students into makers rather than consumers. Wonder Workshop is the creator of the Dash and Dot robots. Let’s inspire students to be future leaders in technology. Find out more at makewonder.com