4 Truths About Coding

I never blog.  Lately Aviva Dunsiger has encouraged me to blog because I keep texting her my thoughts about learning.  Lately we have discussed the introduction of coding into HWDSB classrooms.  It is my hope that coding becomes an outlet for students to express their learning.

I would also like to thank Brian Aspinall for being a constant support as I try to implement coding into my program.  Coding has provided so much joy and enthusiasm into my teaching.  We have used spheres, coded shapes, flown drones, made a banana piano and my kids love it.  For all this enjoyment, I credit Brian and his passion for coding and computer science.

Last week, the Current featured a program on coding in classrooms.  I thought it would be an ideal time to share my success and observations with such a useful tool.

1.  Coding Clubs do not work: Many schools are attempting coding clubs, and I tried the same twice in this school year.  The only way for coding to take shape is in the classroom.  Coding clubs will gather interest of roughly 30 students.  However, meeting at a break weekly is not nearly sufficient time to grow as a coder.

2. Coding pushes essential learning skills:  My class has become quite proficient with coding.  They are so engaged making it difficult to talk to them as they figure out their codes.  After a while, a student will stand up and shout “YES!”  They figured out a working code.  Coding pushes many learning skills such as: collaboration, grit and task commitment.  What a joy!

3. Curriculum must come first: Often when something new comes along, people want to try it.  It is not enough to want to teach coding.  We must consider how it fits with curriculum.  In my class, it has become an essential part of problem solving.  Last week, students successfully coded an app to determine profit.  See Coding Apps.  We must not fall into the trap of assessing coding because we are always assessing curriculum.  Coding is a tool to achieve learning expectations and outcomes.  It is not an assessable area itself.

4. Not all students can code successfully:  While coding is much easier than most people would imagine, it does not appeal to every learner.  Every student should try coding because of its many benefits.  At the same time, I have a few students who struggle with it.  They benefit from partnering or expressing their understanding of math expectations in a different way.  Aviva has mentioned, and I wholeheartedly agree: “Student needs coupled with curriculum need to drive our instruction.  Coding allows many students to share their knowledge.  It definitely gets them to think, problem solve and collaborate.  If coding is not meeting these expectations for the particular student, we must judge what is best suited with DI.”

Coding has provided much joy for me this year.  I hope you visit other parts of this site to see me having a great time.  When teachers are engaged, so are students!  But I still have questions about coding.  But, that will be my next blog . . .

3 Comments

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3 Responses to 4 Truths About Coding

  1. Enzo, I’m so glad that you decided to publish this post. I know that we’ve had many great conversations on coding, and it’s wonderful to see all of your thoughts and hear your thinking behind them. Your first point on Coding Clubs made me stop and think. I’m really not sure about them. Initially, there were about 50 students at my school that wanted to be a part of the club. Now I have about 5. I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted to shut it down, but for those 5 students, it’s really important. Two of the students are expert coders — they could run the club and are teaching me a lot — and I know that they love the opportunity to explore their passion. It doesn’t seem like they code a lot in the classroom, and it’s challenging, as I know that coding isn’t for everyone and not every teacher is comfortable with starting it. So I wonder, how do we help students that are passionate about coding, use it in the classroom? Could this be self-initiated? How do teachers feel about students suggesting a new/different way to share their learning?

    I love how you’re using coding as a tool for students to share their learning. And like you, I think that this curriculum piece is key. It’s not that we have to check off every expectation. We don’t. But maybe coding works better in some areas than others, and maybe it works better for some students than others. It’s like what differentiated instruction is all about.

    I’m curious to hear your coding questions! Keep blogging. As more of us are experimenting with coding in the classroom, it’s helpful to share our thinking and learn from/with each other!

    Aviva

    • Enzo Ciardelli

      I can see your point about those 5 students. I think the mixed success of clubs occur due to the fact it needs to be in classrooms. The delivery model is really the question for me, not necessarily the coding club itself. When I see coding taking shape, it must be a tool. Students will grow as programmers and could continue into high school. But in elementary, a lot has to happen before coding is an option. You can’t build a house without a foundation. Essential reading and math skills must be engrained before students can flourish as coders. And that is one of my questions for my next blog.

      • And if that’s the case, I wonder about the impact on those struggling students (or even early primary students) that are just learning these reading and math skills. Some of my weaker students are stronger coders, but I think that this has a lot to do with the apps/programs that we use. I wonder how limited they’d be with programs such as Scratch, which requires some reading and math skills that they don’t have. This is not the case with Scratch Jr., but the app is much more limited. I’m curious to hear about some of your other questions as well.

        Aviva

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