These last couple of weeks I have been focusing on two different ISTE Standards for Educators. As a cohort, we have reflected on standards 3 and 6. In my own research, I decided to focus on standard 6 with emphasis on indicator d:

Facilitator
Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.
6d Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.

This indicator became my focus for a couple of different reasons. One reason being is that I feel like I am in a repetitive cycle with remote learning, having my students complete the same type of tasks day in and day out. Another reason this spoke to me was because I am looking to find ways to incorporate more creativity into my instruction, allowing students to have more creativity in their work. With this in mind, it worked out great for me to dive into an area that I have been aware of for a while, but haven’t actually dug deep: coding. My focus question became: “how can I incorporate coding with students that allows them to express understanding in content areas such as math or ELA?”

Background

To start I looked at where I am currently to use as my reference point. My school district already has student accounts setup and ready to use on Code.org. This is something that for the last few years our technology instructor has worked on with my students so I only gave it a passing glance. This school year we made the shift where our technology instructors took on coaching positions instead, leaving it up to classroom teachers to give students time to work on Code.org. My students love spending time on Code.org and frequently choose it as their free time activity. As such, I had scheduled it as a “to do” item on their small group checklists, but again still didn’t give it much thought.

Working through this semester, I have had some members in my cohort talk about coding with their students and have tied it into so many ISTE standards that they can work on with their students. By seeing what others were able to do with it, I started coming up with my focus question and decided to put my learner hat on. After playing around with some websites and reading other teacher’s blogposts I feel like I have some great ideas about what I can do with my students when we return to the classroom, but by no means do I feel like an expert. In this post, I hope to share what I have learned and provide some of the tools that I have been looking into.

Research

I began my journey thinking only of digital coding platforms, but one of my instructors brought up that not all coding is digital. There are tools out there that students can use to code that don’t require a computer. With this in mind, I broadened my search and my mind was expanded to even more possibilities. I started at a Kindergarten teacher’s blog post. This was a good start for me because I figured if Kindergarteners can do it, so can my intermediate students. This particular teacher uses Bee-Bots with her students. She uses these tools to teach her students so much more than coding. They work on skills such as problem solving, estimating, directionality, and vocabulary. She shares tips and tricks she uses to integrate them into any type of lesson. On her blog, she also includes ways that she has incorporated them into ELA and Math instruction.

One of the ways that her students use Bee-Bots in math is to program them to move to correct math answers. Students have to first solve them math problem and use their coding skills to get the tool to the correct spot. This is something that students could learn to do independently and then be used as a center activity. In ELA one of the examples was to use the Bee-Bot to retell a story. Students program the Bee-Bot to move to events in sequential order and explain each event as it moves there. These lesson ideas were geared to Kindergarten, but the concept can easily be applied to any grade level/content area. This is something that could be used to have students feel more engaged in their learning and allow them to practice coding skills.

After learning more about Bee-Bots I went back to my initial search of finding ways to incorporate digital coding with students. There are so many programs out there that students can use to code. I was initially overwhelmed with all that I found. Things that remained consistent in my searching were that code can be used across content areas and that many people are saying that it should be more incorporated in schools. One of the ideas that I saw teachers using was connecting coding to writing. Students could use it to tell a story and then share that out. This helps them grow and develop in literacy skills we want to see such as proofreading, descriptive writing, and developing plot. Where there is writing there is also reading. Students could also use this develop comprehension skills such as retell, summarize, sequence, compare and contrast, etc.

I felt like I was really seeing ways that this could work into literacy. What I really wanted to see was math. One of my cohorts shared a tool that I have been playing around with called Microsoft Makecode. I spent time playing around on it and creating games. I was having fun and trying to think of ways that students could use this in math. One of the games is to eat pizza. Simple in concept, but had me thinking: what if students use this to “eat” the correct math answers? They could create these games for review of a unit and share it out with their peers. It would allow them to practice the needed math skills and have fun.

Tools

Bee-Bot: A robot that students program to move in a specific way. It can remember a code that students have entered to complete a sequence. It is straightforward and easy to use. You can sue grids from the company or create your own, making it versatile. By creating your own grids, you can use it in any content area. It is rechargeable so you don’t need to worry about batteries. A drawback is the cost of the product, however knowing that you can create your own grids when buying you do not need to purchase an entire kit.

Ozobot: This is similar to Bee-Bot. It is another robot that moves based on how it is coded. It can be used with or without digital technology. You can use color codes to program it to move around or you can use OzoBlockly to code online. If you use it online, you can share your codes out with others. These are probably a little more advanced for students than Bee-Bot. The drawback here again, would be cost.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXnQFxBHvZQ&disable_polymer=true

Trinket: This allows you to run and write code on any device. This also allows you to share it out. There are different levels of access depending on what you pick. The free account looks like it would work for students, but you also have the option to do a Code+ or Connect account.

Scratch/ScratchJr: ScratchJr is for younger students and Scratch is for older students. It is free for anyone to use. It has tutorials that walk users through the different tools and coding steps. Students can advance to more complex coding as they feel comfortable. This tool could be used for project based learning or as a performance task. A drawback could be that students would want to have an account to keep track of their work and progress. Not all districts would be okay with students creating accounts.

Conclusion

Honestly, the more I have looked into this the more that I am wondering. My eyes have been opened to ways that I can use this in my classroom in a meaningful way that is more than just checking off an item on their to do list. I am so excited to get back in my classroom to try out these ideas I have with my students and see what they create.

Resources

2 thoughts on “Coding in Content Areas

  1. Rachel, I applaud your final thought, that you don’t want to introduce coding into your classroom just to tick a box. Because I am an English teacher, I am also interested in the ‘storytelling’ aspect of coding. I am inspired by you. Thank you for sharing your resources. I’ve read through all of them and especially like The Kinder-Hearted Classroom.

  2. I agree! There are so many different platforms and ways to code with our students. It can easily be overwhelming. I say choose one and dig in deep and try it out for an extensive amount of time instead of jumping around to multiple tools. Maybe some other teachers at your school would be interested in piloting a coding platform with you so you can bounce ideas off of each other and help troubleshoot when issues come up. Have fun!

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