5 ways to engage students in real coding this summer (hint: it’s not by playing Minecraft)

[I just finished a week working with educators and students at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at the South Fayette School District. It was exciting to see kids teaching a Python workshop and other students and adults writing their own code to control Raspberry Pi, Hummingbird, and drone projects. Find out from a computer expert in this eSchool News article what are some key considerations for coding in the classroom.]

June 24th, 2016
Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

A coding expert shares how to get students truly invested in computer science that goes beyond drag and drop

Teaching students how to code software is one of the most valuable skills you can give them, and will virtually guarantee them employment once they’re in the workforce. According to the US Department of Labor, the median pay for a software developer in 2015 was $100,690, and the growth in available positions is expected to be 17 percent during the period 2014-2024 (more than twice the average growth rate across all occupations).

Many schools are offering coding courses over the summer. I’ve spent the last two years building a platform that makes learning to code software as easy as playing a game so I’ve learned a thing or two about how to engage students in coding. Here’s some advice for choosing the right learning platform for your community:

Make sure it’s age-appropriate and will engage children and teens.

Many of these courses were designed for adults, and even if a child is off-the-charts intelligent, he/she might be bored if the course is all coding and no fun. Courses for kids should incorporate some element of gamification to keep them engaged. Look for courses that were designed specifically for children and teens.

Students should be writing actual code, not just dragging and dropping.

Programs like Scratch are a good method for very young children (K-2), but within a few hours becomes boring for older children, who won’t learn very much. To keep kids engaged, they need to start writing real code very quickly.

Read more…

Are Hardware Toys the Future of Kids’ Coding?

[There’s a growing awareness that kids need to “make” things. In this Edsurge article there are a variety of resources highlighted that give learners a chance to make a computer or design tools and then code them. In Pittsburgh this awareness of “Making” has grown as over 100 schools now have Maker Spaces.]

By Blake Montgomery Dec 7, 2015

Plenty of games and apps teach kids to code. But educators and toymakers are betting that teaching computer science isn’t about coding at all.

“Computers have gotten so user-friendly that modern people, maybe not just kids, expect the computer to come to us,” Gene Luen Yang, a graphic novelist and computer science teacher, told EdSurge earlier this year. “But if you want to get into the nitty gritty of how to create new technology, you need to understand how the computer works natively.”

The proliferation of devices has made technology a ubiquitous presence in children’s lives. But that does not mean they understand how anything works. Enter computer hardware toys, which hopefully build kids’ understanding of how electronics function.

The creators of hardware toys believe that playing will endear technology to kids and inspire their academic interest. Kano, a build-it-yourself computer kit, spells out the ideal progression in its company tagline: “Make a computer, learn what’s inside, play with code. Spark a lifelong passion for computing and the arts.”

There’s a market for toys like these. In the most recent available data from 2013, Arduino had sold 300,000 units official units, with 700,000 more unofficial imitation units in circulation. Arduino makes a microcontroller that forms the basis of do-it-yourself digital devices.

Raspberry Pi, a computer the size of a credit card, has sold three million units to date. The cost of entry is decreasing, too. The latest iteration of the Raspberry Pi, the Pi Zero, is just $5.

Some tools are even free: in July, the BBC released the BBC micro:bit, a palm-sized codeable computer, which will be distributed free to every UK student in year seven, usually students age 11 to 13. The hope is to engage students with the new UK coding curriculum.

Read more…