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.

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The Maker Movement Isn’t Just About Making and Electronics

[Mitch Resnick, MIT Professor and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab,  has been a leader in the world of student voice and computational thinking. Here’s an interview with him as part of an Edsurge article.]

By Mary Jo Madda May 23, 2016

Photo of educators at Play - PAEYC unconference - Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo of educators at Play – PAEYC unconference – Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Mitchel Resnick (or Mitch, for short) knows his making—from a lot of different angles. And he’s not too bought into the whole “electronics and gadgets” side of the maker movement.

Resnick has been in this business for more than 30 years, and it’s safe to say that he’s seen the maker movement—and the state of STEM education, in general—go through its phases, its ups and downs. He’s currently the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, where he and his team have developed products familiar to many a science educator: the “programmable brick” technology that inspired the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit, andScratch, an online computing environment for students to learn about computer science.

Is making something that every school should be doing—and are all interpretations of “making” of equitable value? EdSurge sat down with Resnick in his office at the MIT Media Lab to learn more, and to find out how he and his team are working to bring more creativity into the learning process.

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A Kids’ Coding Expert Says We’re Making Computer Class Way Too Boring

[Mitch Resnick in this NPR article highlights the importance of letting kids “play” with code. If we just have kids solve pre-determined problems, it’s like teaching writing by only learning grammar. I’ve been fortunate to see kids tap into the power of Scratch in my work with the in school programs at South Fayette School District and the Manchester Academic Charter School, as after-school programs sponsored by the YMCA. It works everywhere.]


Photo by Norton Gusky CC 4.0

For Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13), the nonprofit Code.org has helped organize nearly 200,000 “Hour of Code” events around the world. It’s advocating for computer coding as a basic literacy and an essential ingredient for jobs of the future, and there’s a lot of momentum behind the idea.

The biggest school systems in the country, New York City and Los Angeles Unified, each announced this fall that computer science will be a required course for all grades within 10 years. Coding is also part of national curricula in the U.K. and soon will be in Australia.


Mitchel Resnick has been at the forefront of computer science and early education for decades. He heads up something called the Lifelong Kindergarten Group, which develops new technologies for creativity at MIT’s Media Lab.

In the early 2000s, his team developed Scratch, a “visual” programming language. Visual means it depicts commands as blocks that can be snapped together, like Legos, into more complex sets of instructions. A version called ScratchJr, intended for those as young as 5, has been downloaded over 1.5 million times from the Apple App Store.

Read more…