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kids on computers with their teachers


By: Catherine Searson


It was 1983, in the back corner of a science lab in Mynarski Park, Alberta where a solitary computer sat with a triangular turtle flashing in the middle of the monitor. My grade 7 teacher, Mr. Graves, had just tried to convince me that learning to type lines of a new language into this beige box would change the world.


My first experience with a computer was just a few years before in a room the size of a gymnasium. Huge metal machines lined up in rows and, in the middle of them, my ten year old self felt a sense of awe and wonder. That sense of wonder is what made me believe Mr. Graves and what kept me in at recess trying to figure out how to get a turtle to write my name across a screen.


That curiosity has stayed with me through many years in the education system, as a student and as a teacher. But it was only recently where I was given the gift of reuniting with this past computer programming experience. It came in the form of two young students immersed in a Genius Hour project. They wanted to create their own video game and their research led them to a program called Scratch. I knew I had work to do.


Over the next few nights, I investigated this block coding program, I attempted to make my “sprite” do what seemed like miraculous things, and I ordered books to help me help them. It was at this time that my world began to change.


kids in St. Mike's classroom working on coding activitiesSt. Michael’s Catholic School is a rural K-8 school with a population of about 130 students. It is filled with passionate teachers and a principal who fuels that enthusiasm. So when the opportunity for a grant to create an innovative project became available, our principal quickly made a team and we started brainstorming.


Building on some past STEM initiatives in the school we decided that coding, as a vehicle for computational thinking, would be the focus of our proposal. We called our project: Creating a Culture of Coding, and it was given the green light to go ahead.


Our first year included meeting Lisa Anne Floyd from Fair Chance Learning, who focuses on spreading computational thinking to classrooms across the country. Lisa came to St. Michael’s and taught every teacher, as well as four students from each class, how to make music and how to count steps using a device called a micro:bit. The excitement was palpable.


In 2018, the innovation team wanted to keep the buzz so we decided that meeting once a month with an inspiring lesson for both teachers and students would be central to our new learning. We also would prepare an extension activity that could be done in the classroom in the time between meetings. All materials and plans would be provided for ease of use. The activities would be selected according to what we believed is a natural progression, a computational thinking/coding continuum. The following chart briefly outlines the proposed monthly challenges.





Unplugged Coding Activities


Introduction to Scratch Jr / Scratch


Hour of Code: tutorials in Scratch


No activity due to Christmas concert time commitment


In Scratch program, design game


Introduction to micro:bit


micro:bit Add Ons :

Light Sensor

Soil Tester

Water Pump


K8 Wars (micro:bit add on robot)


Class Projects


Coding Circus

  • Students showcase one activity, one product or one program they have developed this year



We determined that the diverse needs of the different classrooms must be considered. We paired a number of classes up, together in the gym, which allowed for the older students to help the younger students while providing the older students with a greater sense of purpose.

kids working on classroom coding activities

To date, we have hosted two Coding Days that have included activities involving tiled carpets, stuffed animals, and maps. We have danced to the cardinal directions and programmed code to be executed by our classmates. Some of our grade 4 and 5 students were introduced to data and binary coding through an activity that involved students being sent back to class with riddles represented in based on the binary system.


The Experiential Learning Coordinator and Technology Enabled Learning Teacher at Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB) have been integrating their portfolios and providing opportunities for teachers to come together and dig deeper with computational thinking. In early October, two teachers from our school joined with teachers from ten other schools and spent the day connecting micro:bits to the curriculum with sensors, speakers, and other tools adapted for use with these mini microcontrollers. Helping to organize this event was Tyson Holly, the Technology Enabled Learning Teacher, who was also Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 11.10.28 AM.pngscheduled to come to St. Michael’s for our October Coding Day later that month. We introduced the grade 3 and grade 7/8 classes to micro:bits and it was a huge hit. Students began with a simple code to make a beating heart, and then were very engaged with a rock, paper, scissor activity. When the younger students went back to class, the older students coded their micro:bits to use as a step counter and left the gymnasium running to see who could collect the most steps.


Other classes programmed Dash and Dot Robots to clean up garbage (pompoms) that had been left in a city (drawn on craft paper by the students). This lesson has led to an increased engagement with the coding of the robots. On a rainy day, two robots were seen moving through the hall during an indoor recess. A senior class asked to borrow Dash from the primary classrooms as their interest was sparked.


I suspect the innovation days will continue to evolve as the students’ interests and comfort level with coding changes. Recently the grade 7/8 class has begun integrating the micro:bits into their science lessons, the grade 3 class has moved from ScratchJr to Scratch Scratch, and the grade 1/2 class work with an unplugged coding station during their math block. Change is awakening the computational thinking, creativity, and problem-solving parts of many students’ brains at St. Michael’s School. A culture of coding is being created. And my world, in this wonderful community of Douglas, is changed as all students from grade 1 to 8 at St Michael’s School can write their name across a screen using a cat, a car, a robot or even a hand drawn turtle.


headshot of writer and teacher Catherine Searson



Catherine Searson is an RCCDSB educator with a passion for bringing STEM thinking and doing into her primary classroom. She has been blessed with supportive administrators who have helped bring her ideas to light. Catherine has been involved in two TLLP projects and is currently helping to navigate a new Innovative Learning project at St. Michael’s Catholic School in Douglas, Ontario. She and her husband are the proud parents of four amazing children.

3D Printing Debugged

Posted by Sep 27, 2018

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By: Jessica Weber


So what does computational thinking have to do with 3D printing anyways? Turns out a lot!

In this post, I hope to shed some light on how computational practices are evident in student learning while engaged in the 3D design process.


Computational Practices Defined:


Brennan and Resnick (2012) outline key dimensions of computational thinking including computational concepts, practices, and perspectives. They state, “Computational practices focus on the process of thinking and learning, moving beyond what you are learning to how you are learning” (p. 7).


These practices include:

  • being incremental and iterative
  • testing and debugging
  • reusing and remixing
  • abstracting and modularizing


There are many examples of how these practices are embedded in coding activities in the classroom using programs such as Scratch. I contend that students use these very same practices when engaged in 3D design.


Setting the Context:


I embarked on an adventure with my intermediate class to discover the what, why, and how of 3D printing in the classroom environment:

  • What are the benefits and challenges of integrating 3D printing in the classroom?
  • Why should students be exposed to 3D digital tools?
  • How does 3D printing connect with the Ontario curriculum and the development of global competencies?


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The Journey Told:


From the beginning of this journey, we discovered that the ability to persist and overcome challenges was very much a part of 3D design. We experienced setbacks with faulty print jobs, so we learned how to calibrate and control print settings. Our 3D designs, using Tinkercad, were not always successful so we re-assessed and altered components and dimensions. The acronym FAIL became our motto: First Attempt In Learning. This theme of failing forward appeared again and again in student reflections such as this one - “I think that having the 3D printer taught us that it’s okay to fail. Let’s take a step back, look at what’s wrong, and fix it. And figure out how to fix it”. Students learned a great deal about the need to see mistakes as stepping stones. They learned how to ‘debug their designs’ and, in this way, the practice of testing and debugging became very much a part of the learning process.


A few of our projects included constructing our own puzzle cubes, creating monuments to celebrate significant aspects of life in Canada, and designing prisms to hold a specific capacity. Students developed a deep understanding of the iterative nature of the design process - another computational practice. They asked questions, conducted research, generated ideas, created prototypes, and altered designs as needed. Learning became rooted in the process rather than any one product. Learning was social as students asked questions and provided assistance to each other based on skill sets and aptitudes. Collaboration was authentic and feedback and reflection constant.



“By creating an intellectual environment in which the emphasis

is on process we give people with different skills and interests

something to talk about” (Papert, 1980, p. 185).



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Beyond projects such as these, the 3D printer became another way for students to express themselves and share their learning. Creativity was often palpable. They would reuse and remix objects and files to generate their own designs. I recall a student grouping multiple triangles to create a hexagon, and another scaling a gear for a design challenge prototype. Much like students remix in Scratch, students would use .stl files in the construction of their own designs. The intentional use of various components led to some truly amazing creations.




“One of the things I have learned is how to innovate. Innovation to me

is to create something that is unique and to inspire others

with your creations.”  - student reflection







“My interest is in the process of invention of “objects-to-think-with,” objects

in which there is an intersection of cultural presence, embedded knowledge, and the

possibility for personal identification” (Papert, 1980, p. 11).




Seymour Papert eloquently defined the need for tangible objects for students to think and reason with. In this way, I believe he would see the great potential of 3D design in the classroom. Computational practices developed through the use of 3D printing requires an innovative learning environment where the design process can thrive- where students ask questions based on curiosities, develop new knowledge through research and experimentation, create prototypes to suit specific purposes, test their solutions and make refinements, and share their learning with others. The focus then moves to the process of learning, and thinking is made visible through reflection on action.


My hope is for more educators (and students!) to experience the great joy and excitement of learning and experimentation through 3D design. Taking a leap with my students and engaging deeply in design thinking incorporating computational practices led to some of the most powerful professional development I have experienced. Remember to reach out and invite others in to your journey - I could not have done this without the support of my PLN and community partners. There is always uncertainty with experimentation however the benefits are more than worth it. As stated in the 21st Century Competencies: Foundation Document for Discussion, “Technology is playing more of a role in society as well as in the classroom and can be a powerful tool in enabling deeper learning” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016, p. 35).




Brennan, K., Resnick, M. (2012). New frameworks for studying and assessing the development of computational thinking. Presented at the American Education Researcher Association, Vancouver, Canada.


Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). 21st Century Competencies: Foundation Document for Discussion.

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books


Jessica Weber is a WCDSB educator (currently on secondment) with a passion for propelling student learning through technology integration and infusion of global competencies. Her classroom experience extends from the primary to intermediate divisions where she has pushed boundaries in regards to student driven learning, inquiry, and assessment. She has conducted action research in the area of design thinking & 3D printing. Jessica is a proud graduate of the Master of Education program at Wilfrid Laurier University where her areas of focus centered on leadership, mathematics, and technology integration. As part of her professional learning, Jessica has travelled to China where she led STEM-based activities for middle school students. She is a lifelong learner & avid adventurer who loves to connect with other innovative educators. Twitter: @msjessweber

More and more attention is being given to coding and CT, both in Canada and the world. Our goal is to support educators as they change their practice to allow students the opportunity to learn and thrive in this exciting and important area.



We welcome Ontario Educators to share their coding and CT research and experiences. Please get in touch with us if you would like to contribute or share an idea.


While much of this work seems innovative and cutting edge, we’d like to take the time to remind everyone that research projects and educational programs surrounding computer programming have been around for decades.



We would be remiss if we did not suggest that, while you read the new and innovative work being done by Educators across Ontario, you also seek out the work of Seymour Papert. The “projects and ideas that he developed, starting in the 1960s, laid the intellectual foundation for today’s maker movement and Learn to Code movement.” (Resnick, 2017a, p.1)



While innovative hardware and software captures our eyes and are of initial interest to students, we believe that the development of complex thought processes and competencies merits coding and CT a place in our classrooms.


“Many of Seymour’s seeds are bearing fruit. Today, more children in more places have more opportunities for exploring, experimenting, and expressing themselves with new technologies then ever before” (Resnick, 2017b, p. 3).


We would like to encourage educators to explore coding and computational thinking further, while continuing to view them as valuable tools that allow our students to explore, experiment and express themselves!


Steve Floyd and Lisa Floyd





Resnick, M. (2017a). The Patron Saint of Making and Coding. Hello World, issue 1, Spring 2017.

Resnick, M. (2017b). The Seeds That Seymour Sowed. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction.





Steve Floyd has over 15 years of experience teaching computer science and computer engineering in Ontario. He was the recipient of the 2017 CSTA Award for Teaching Excellence in Computer Science and has worked on a number of coding and computational thinking projects with elementary and high school teachers across Ontario. Steve is currently pursuing his PhD at Western University where he is investigating Computer Science and Computational Thinking in K-12 education. Steve is also an elearning course writer and developer and has worked closely with both the Ministry of Education and private companies to help develop digital citizenship and financial literacy apps for students.


Lisa Anne is an advocate for introducing students and teachers to the world of coding. She is a PhD student at Western University where she is focusing on best practices for professional learning in computer science and STEM. Lisa Anne was recently admitted into Waterloo University’s Society of Descartes Medallists for her contribution to math and computer science education in Ontario. She has taught in the Western’s Bachelor of Education program for four years, receiving the 2016 and 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching in an undergraduate program.  Lisa Anne has her Masters in Mathematics Education and likes to consider research and evidence-based practices while integrating coding ideas across all subject areas. She loves to share her passion for creative coding and digital making tools with students and teachers at school districts and educational conferences across Canada and beyond. Lisa Anne is on a leave of absence from the Thames Valley District School Board, where she has years of experience teaching secondary Computer Science, Math, Science and Experiential Learning.



We asked three educators in Ontario three questions related to
their experience with coding and computational thinking.



Greg Burns is a Computer Science and Co-op teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board.

Ian McTavish is a Computer Science Teacher, Librarian and Robotics Mentor with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.

Lynnette Raffin is a Computer Science teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.




Describe what you observed as students were engaged in coding/computational thinking activities.


Greg Burns: Students really wanted to show others what they were doing, some wanted to work on it at home or didn't want to stop the activity.


Ian McTavish: I often have students that spend two to four hours outside of my class time working on problems. Not because I assign the problems, they simply love the challenge.


Lynnette Raffin: They seemed to develop as problem solvers as they learned to be self-taught. They were often using resources to find the solution to their problems. This empowered them by being able to find the solution on their own.


What were some memorable moments, quotes or experiences from your time working with students in coding/computational thinking activities?


GB: Kids were definitely interested in learning. There was a lot of enthusiasm and one teacher said that the activities engaged some of her students that weren't keen in other areas (grade 1/2).


IM: In one group project there was a group of three students - one female and two males. They came up with a project that pulled all the clothing images and data about the clothing from the American Eagle store. The program then prompted the user to pick an item and it would generate three items that would go with it - if you picked a short sleeve top it would pick shorts, a sweater would pick pants etc.  Watching students debate about whether a pair of shorts matched a blouse was hilarious. It was a very impressive final project.


One of my students started our TechnoGirls program for her project.  I'm proud of our results.  We gave workshops to over 200 elementary female students. One of our first participants is now the captain of our robotics team.


LR: I love when I see students light up when they find the answer to a bug they were trying to fix, or when they see their game working for the first time. I also love empowering students who may not excel in other areas but do excel in coding and CT activities.


What suggestions would you give to someone who is thinking of introducing students to coding/computational thinking activities?


GB: I’d suggest using tried and tested resources to start with - there are quite a few available. Start with a short activity where kids will all have early success.


IM: Play and be inquisitive. You don't need to be the expert but it certainly helps your motivation when your students encounter problems and you can help troubleshoot them.  Keep in mind that skills such as manipulating spreadsheets can be incredibly useful for students (and staff).  Computational thinking is all about deconstructing problems and recognizing the patterns that you can use to solve them.  The computer is simply a tool and the tools will be exponentially more powerful in the future.  What stays the same is the underlying logic.


LR: Be flexible and allow for the students to teach you (and the class) solutions they have found. Sometimes I have to say "I don't know" and that is okay. Oftentimes the students end up finding the answers on their own.


Follow-up questions for educators:

Greg mentioned how students were wanting to work on coding and CT activities outside of the classroom even though homework was not assigned. What does this tell us, as Educators, about the nature of these activities?

Ian described a student project that involved images and data from a clothing retailer. How important is it to allow students choice in terms of the context of their larger projects? How does this choice impact engagement and overall achievement in the activities?

Lynnette emphasized how students developed into independent problem solvers. What is it about coding and CT activities that allow for this to occur? How can we use this knowledge to encourage students to be independent problem solvers in other areas of school and life?

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By: Laura Collins


I am currently working in a Section 23 Kindergarten & Primary classroom in the Toronto District School Board, supporting students who have one or more exceptionalities.  In partnership with a multidisciplinary team, we develop an intensive program for our classes, which typically have up to seven students. I have found that one of the best ways to truly engage my students is by providing them with multiple rich, hands-on, STEAM experiences to develop their computational thinking and to help close achievement gaps. Our end-goal is to prepare the children for a smooth transition back into an inclusive classroom setting.


Robots in Primary - A Scaffolded Approach


My students especially love robots and become experts by the end of the school year! In order to lay a solid foundation first, we do not start with coding robots right away.  Instead, we implement unplugged coding games so that my students can become more familiar with positional language terms such as left, right, forward, backwards, start and stop, as well as learn how to move around on a grid. Some of the unplugged coding activities I have implemented include: retelling and/or helping a character solve a problem in our favourite stories, writing our name in binary, Lego, writing secret codes, procedure/sequencing (e.g., how to plant a seed) and coding a friend. Once I feel that my students can recognize and understand the meaning of different unplugged coding cards and how to move successfully through a grid, I begin integrating robots such as Bee-Bot and Blue-Bot. I continue to encourage students to use coding cards to help them plan and program the robot. Once they master this robot, we move onto programs such as ScratchJr, Lego WeDo, Scratch, Makey Makey and Blockly. I feel that it is really important to provide multiple opportunities for students to become creators, rather than consumers of technology. Robots help to do this effectively by making coding and programming more “visible”. I have been extremely amazed at how successful my students are at collaborating, debugging and problem solving!


Coding and Design Thinking Resources


In addition to coding, I try my best to embed design thinking through authentic problem-based inquiry projects. Inquiry projects allow students to dive deep into the curriculum as they move through the five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. This framework has allowed my students to think critically and develop solutions to solve real-world problems. I co-authored The Goldilocks Coding Project with Melissa Seco (TDSB) from the Science and Innovation in the Kindergarten Classroom Writing Team for the Science Teachers Organization of Ontario (STAO). This project integrates both design thinking and coding. You can download a copy of the resource here. Another example of a project that involves design thinking is one that a student created called "The Dark", which was adapted based on another resource I helped to develop with the STAO Coding and Robotics Writing Team. This student example can be found here and The Energy In Our Lives coding resource can be downloaded here.


I am extremely passionate about engaging learners through STEAM! I have created a website to help document my learning journey and to share some of the writing projects (STAO: Kindergarten/Coding and Robotics/Inquiry/TEL), robot challenges (Dash n Dot Site), student examples (Little Coders/The Dark) and various presentation slide decks. If you are interested, please feel free to visit it here:


I am looking forward to a new year of learning and sharing! Follow @MsLauraCollins on Twitter or @mzlauracollins on Instagram for a peek into my classroom!




laura collins.pngBiography:


Laura is a Google for Educator Group Leader (GEG),  Google certified teacher, TDSB Digital Lead Learner, Section 23 Digital Fluency Chair, Kindergarten Division Lead & PJI educator within the Toronto District School Board. She has taught a variety of subjects in a number of educational roles ranging from Kindergarten - Grade 8.  She is also an Early Childhood Educator. Laura loves all things Google, coding, robotics, STEM/STEAM, as well as any innovation that increases student engagement and builds digital fluency.

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By: Lisa Floyd and Steven Floyd


One of the best ways to effectively incorporate coding into your daily routine is to ensure students feel that it is an authentic and meaningful learning experience.


In this task, we suggest having students code the Olympic rings.  The Olympic Games provide us with many opportunities to discuss the science/psychology/love of sport, culture, geography, goal setting, marketing…. there really is no end to the cross-curricular connections that can be made.


For this particular task, we provide you with guided materials (see below) to get students started and also some challenges to raise the ceiling for those who are ready. 


As you incorporate such tasks, you will become more and more comfortable with coding in your classroom, and as your students begin to learn the basics, you will continue to come up with new ideas to incorporate coding in meaningful ways.


The beauty of coding, is there really is no limit to what you can create.  As Mitch Resnick suggests, coding provides wide walls to appeal to all different student interests.


Lisa has included Scratch code for making the Olympic rings, but ideally, you will have students write their own code. You can see that Lisa made her own blocks to organize the code and to be more efficient, but this could be considered an extension.  She did not add some of the other possible extensions which might include the Olympic Fanfare, adding information about what each ring represents, etc.


Depending on the students’ past coding experiences, there is an opportunity here to say “go code the Olympic rings” without giving students much initial assistance… watch as they work together to determine the proper colours, math concepts required to code a circle, how the Cartesian plane on the Scratch stage works, meaning of each ring…individual strengths start to shine through and different skill sets (knowledge of sport, artistic abilities, understanding of math ideas) are valued in projects like this. Effective guided questions can play an important role in drawing out key ideas (What does each colour symbolize?  Why were the rings created?  What are the number of degrees required to code a circle?).


You might opt to share the guided materials with students or parts of them with a scaffolded approach (in the past we’ve printed separate “tips” on cards to give out as required).  A link to a shared doc has been provided so you may make a copy and edit as you see fit.  We consider ourselves Just in Time teachers as we walk around listening to discussions and ready to provide support as required.


Additional Olympic Games Learning and Coding Opportunities


The wonderful thing about using the Olympics Games as a context for coding are the number of connections that can be made to a wide variety of subject areas…


What about having your students:

  • code a map of the world, pinpoint countries involved
  • create a program that keeps track of medal counts
  • code the years the Summer and Winter Games are held
  • code their own opening ceremonies animation – fireworks, country flags
  • code a simulation of a bobsled course (use barriers and movement of sprites)
  • create an interactive poster with makey makey and Scratch highlighting specific countries, history of Olympics, specific sports (see Derek Tangredi’s videos for a how to:
  • consider environmental/economic impacts of hosting the games


Guided Materials for Olympic Games Rings:


Link to PDF

Link to Shared Document


Share with us on the Teach Ontario Community in the comment thread below and/or on Twitter (#TeachOntario) how you incorporate coding and the Olympic Games into your own classes.

We continue to update and refresh the material on the site. Previous content will always be available here or by clicking on the Content tab in the dark blue bar across the top of this hub's main page.


We are thankful to the wonderful educators across Ontario who have contributed and supported the materials on this hub. We have tried to provide both specific tasks, as well as big picture, implementation-based resources.  We always welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Lisa Floyd picture


You may find that the examples and instructions on this hub work perfectly for your teachers and students, or you may alter and "remix" some of these activities.


Our hope is that you're recognizing the wide variety of ways that coding and computational thinking can be integrated into our classrooms for the benefit of our students.


If you are just getting started on your coding and computational thinking journey, Steve Floyd pictureyou may want to check out the Coding and Computational Thinking Webinar that we hosted in January. The video is available here.


As a reminder, if you have questions or comments or if you would like to submit material to share, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are excited about the wonderful things going on in Ontario, and we're excited about the future of coding and computational thinking in our classrooms!


If you would like to contribute or make suggestions for this hub, please do not hesitate to message

Lisa & Steve through our TeachOntario accounts or by using the Ask A Question widget in the right panel of the page!


Steve and Lisa Floyd






Steve Floyd has 14 years experience teaching computer science and computer engineering in Ontario. He was the recipient of the 2017 CSTA Award for Teaching Excellence in Computer Science and has worked on a number of coding and computational thinking projects with elementary and high school teachers across Ontario. Steve is currently pursuing his PhD at Western University where he is investigating Computer Science and Computational Thinking in K-12 education. Steve is also an elearning course writer and developer and has worked closely with both the Ministry of Education and private companies to help develop digital citizenship and financial literacy apps for students.


Lisa Floyd is passionate about introducing students and teachers to the world of coding. She recently completed her Masters in Mathematics Education.  She is a Computational Thinking in Math and Science Education instructor at Western University’s Faculty of Education, for which she has received an award for excellence in teaching in the undergraduate program. Lisa is on a leave of absence from the Thames Valley District School Board, where she has many years experience teaching secondary Computer Science, Math and Science. As a thought-leader on STEM education, and Director of Research and Inquiry at Fair Chance Learning, Lisa is currently working with ministries and school districts sharing her passion for creative coding and digital making tools with students and teachers across Canada.

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By Jim Cash


One of the most exciting parts of my day as a resource teacher and co-teacher is to spend time with students who are in the midst of thinking through a problem and figuring something out.


One of the most effective thinking and learning environments is MIT’s Scratch environment. Late last fall, I was working with students in a grade 8 class. Some of them were taking on the challenge of building a working analogue clock in Scratch. Others were figuring out multiple methods by which circles and disks could be drawn in Scratch.


I kept checking in with various students but in this post I am specifically highlighting two students working together (as they... worked together to model an analogue clock). I kept detailed (digital) notes of my observations and conversations with students about their projects.


One of the girls in the partnership decided to start by finding a blank clock face image in Google images. It was imported as the first sprite in the project.


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She then started to look for clock hands in Google. When I returned to them, the other girl was drawing a red second hand in the sprite painting tool. They had decided to just draw the hands. At this point, I started a conversation with them and mentioned the significance of the small + symbol in the paint canvas. I reminded them that any transformations controlled by the dark blue (motion) blocks would use that point as the centre point. We also talked a little bit about how the hands move on an analogue clock.


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They started to code the second hand and, logically enough, used the point in direction block. For the value of that direction, they knew about the light blue sensing blocks that contained values for time and date (i.e., current ______ ).


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I knew at this point that the girls were about to face their first big issue. They assumed that the point in direction block along with the current second block would result in their second hand sprite pointing to the correct second. It didn’t.


Their thinking was logical but their understanding of exactly what the blocks were controlling and how was incomplete. The girls knew it wasn’t right because the second hand would jump back to the 9 and start slowly turning clockwise.


I reminded them that the value of the current second block could be displayed on the stage if they checked the box. Seeing this value is important information and it’s helpful to watch it change in real time (no pun intended!).


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It wasn’t until the arrow sprite returned to the 9 again, and they saw the ‘current second’ value start at zero again, that they started talking about some ideas. I noted that they had a look at the help for the point in direction block.


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One of the girls had an insight. She said out loud that they should first try to get the arrow pointing straight up at the 12 when the second was at zero. There were a few ways they could do this. They chose a mathematical way:


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Adding 90 to the value worked perfectly well at accomplishing one thing: pointing at 12 when the value of ‘current second’ equaled zero. For the rest of the this session they experimented with more values in what looked to be almost a purely trial and error strategy.


They were trying to get the second hand to point to the right second. No lesson I could ever design in advance would have set them up better for an exercise in proportional reasoning than this project, a project they started, owned, and designed.


But now, here I was at the most crucial juncture of my role in their project. They needed to make a connection to other mathematical concepts about circles and angles. My idea was to invite them to tell me all about the clock face circle. I asked them to describe it mathematically:

  • How many numbers were there?
  • How many tick marks?
  • How many seconds and minutes in one full circle sweep of the hand?
  • What are the angles of the numbers and angles of the the tick marks?


For these girls, at this point in their thinking, making the connection again that there were 60 seconds in a minute and that there were 60 ticks around the circle... saying this out loud led to a key question: ‘what is the angle between each tick mark?’


360 divided into 60 equal parts equals 6.


So the 60 tick marks are each 6 degrees of the total circle.


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Now their goal was to make sure this multiplicative relationship between Scratch’s current second, and the 6 degrees between each tick of the clock face, was reflected in the code. The trickiest part was making sure that the 90 degree rotation correction was added after the proportion was calculated.


This is real thinking, powerful learning, and immersive mathematics, using the sprites and blocks in Scratch as objects to think with. Making a highly accurate model of an analogue clock in Scratch is quite challenging and there are many small mathematical problems that need careful consideration and thinking through.


It is also important to mention that I consistently see all of the mathematical processes (as listed in the Ontario math curriculum document) in action every time when I observe students working in Scratch. Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 1.47.44 PM.png


You can read connect with Jim on Twitter or learn more about his work on his blog:


Bio: Jim currently works in the Peel District School Board as a modern learning resource teacher. He is also a father, maker, learner, coder, blogger, musician, podcaster, and is always interested in sharing ideas and innovations to help young people develop as creative thinkers, doers and makers.


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By  Leigh Cassell

AMDSB Teaching and Learning Coach

Founder and President, Digital Human Library



Coding is today’s language of creativity.

~ Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College



In 2017 a talented and innovative team of ten elementary educators in Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) came together as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) to inquire about how to integrate computational thinking (CT) through coding across the curriculum. Our purpose was to help students learn by developing the skill sets they need to be successful today, and in the future. The process of our learning culminated in a curriculum-based resource designed to support teachers and students in K-12 with the integration of computational thinking through coding into their classroom programs.  


The full story of this project can be read here.



I code because it is another avenue for students to learn something new.
It is also a skill of the future. 

-Nicole Kaufman, PLC Team Member - Howick Public School



What initially brought us together was a common interest and curiosity around coding in education.  Why was it important for students to learn to code? As a result of our different levels of knowledge and experience, each member on the team had their own unique perspective. And our willingness to share openly led to rich discussions about why learning to code is valuable.


Our first collaboration was establishing Our Why:


  • Code is everywhere, and as contributing citizens of the world we need to understand how computers work
  • Coding is engaging, creative, fun, innovative, inclusive, differentiated, inquiry-based, and real-life
  • Entry points for anyone, anywhere, at any age, and/or skill level
  • Multiple right answers to a solution
  • Looking for mistakes is rewarding
  • Develop logical reasoning and spatial awareness
  • Build procedural thinking
  • Reinforce the application of the writing process in a new context
  • Coding can be integrated into to all subject areas in an interdisciplinary way
  • Computational Thinking = 21st Century Competencies
  • Empower students to move from passive consumers of content, to active creators of knowledge
  • *Canada will need just shy of 220,000 skilled tech workers by 2020, and our colleges and universities are colleges and universities are producing less than 30,000 (
  • If we don’t prepare students with the skills they need for today’s job market, who will?




Through this experience, I have learned that coding and computational thinking are critical literacy skills, for both 21st-century teachers and students alike.

-Kerri-Lynn Schepers, PLC Team Member -  Bluewater Coast



Coding provides students with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and allows them to see computers as more than recreational/gaming devices. The experience of coding offers students engaging opportunities to think critically, collaborate and solve problems. The procedural thinking and computational thinking skills that students develop through coding activities can be applied across the curriculum in any grade. Coding also allows students to understand that failure is essential to learning, and by continually debugging and remixing code, students develop skills like perseverance, tenacity and grit that contribute to the development of learning skills and productive work habits.




Working with this group of educators gave me the tools I needed to maximize the potential of coding to develop communication, perseverence, problem solving, and collaboration skills in my students.

-Michelle McDonald, PLC Team Member - NorthPerth Westfield



As we moved forward with our inquiry the next guiding question we wanted to answer was... WHERE DOES CODING ‘FIT INTO’ THE CURRICULUM?


Without solid curriculum-based evidence to support ‘Our Why’, how could we justify engaging our students, and other teachers and students in the process of learning to code? But first we needed to develop our own understanding of what it really means to code. New questions were raised as a result of our discussions around this topic which formed the basis of our research and work moving forward:


  • What is Coding?
  • What is Computational Thinking?
  • What are the curriculum-based skills a student would develop while learning to code? (all subject areas)
  • Who (what experts) can we connect with to inform our learning?




Being new to teaching computational thinking and coding in the classroom, I was impressed by my students desire to persevere and collaborate with each other to solve real problems.

-Terry Munn, PLC Team Member - Huron Centennial School



You can read about how we answered each of these questions and how some of these questions evolved into others in the full story.  Below are answers to some of these questions:


What is Coding?


Code is the language that a computer understands. Coding, in the simplest of terms, is telling a computer to do what you want it to do. This begins with breaking a task down into logically sequenced step-by-step commands for the computer to follow. Coding allows users to investigate, problem solve, explore and communicate through discovery, and it is a way to express ideas creatively.

Coding requires computational thinking, which is embedded throughout the Ontario Curriculum. As a result of this, educators can incorporate code into learning for all curriculum areas. The task can consist of journals, interactive stories, literature retells, video, websites, e-mail correspondence, artwork, drama and dance routines, and so on. ~ EduGains, Coding in Elementary


What is Computational Thinking?


One of our challenges with the PLC project was to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding of computational thinking. After piecing together the big ideas from our discussions, here is what we came up with:


Computational thinking is a set of skills that can be developed by all people, whether you use technology or not, and whether solutions to problems require technology or not. Computational thinking is about how humans think about the world and its’ problems, and how we can solve those problems in a structured way. Computational Thinking is about ideas that inform our technologies, and that lead to the creation of new technologies. ~ #EveryoneCanCode Team, 2018



When my students and I were learning to code no one ever had the perfect answer but we were making mistakes and creating wonderful things.

-Nicole Kaufman, Howick Public School



Why Should Students Learn to Code?


It’s not about everyone becoming a coder. As we transition in understanding from learning to code to coding to learn, we recognize that “coding” is about teaching kids to first see the world with empathy, find problems within it that are important to them, and design solutions to solve those problems and help others.

~ Leigh Cassell


Coding provides students with the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and allows them to see computers as more than recreational/gaming devices. The experience of coding offers students engaging opportunities to think critically, collaborate and solve problems. The procedural thinking and computational thinking skills that students develop through coding activities can be applied across the curriculum in any grade. Coding also allows students to understand that failure is essential to learning, and by continually debugging and remixing code, students develop skills like perseverance, tenacity and grit that contribute to the development of learning skills and productive work habits.



My biggest take away from our Coding/Robotics PLC was the idea of failing forward, and how the engagement level of the students I work with was unlike any I’ve seen for quite some time.

-Trevor Hammer, PLC Team Member - Program Department


Students who learn CT across the curriculum can begin to see a relationship between subjects as well as between school and life outside of the classroom.

- Google for Education



Where Does CT/ Coding 'Fit Into' the Curriculum?


Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 1.50.57 PM.png

Computational thinking skills can be integrated into any subject area...


Ontario’s Renewed Math Strategy focuses on seven mathematical process skills/expectations —the actions of doing mathematics— which include problem solving, reasoning and proving, reflecting, selecting tools and computational strategies, connecting, representing, and communicating. These mathematical processes are embedded in coding tasks and developing computational thinking skills.


From a literacy perspective, coding tasks require students to revise and edit their work, write and follow a procedure, decode and comprehend text, and communicate their learning.  Learning to code requires that students work collaboratively, persevere to overcome challenges, while developing Global Competencies, and learning skills outlined in Growing Success.


Computational thinking skills provide students with a foundation and a mindset to understand their world today, and actively contribute to the world of tomorrow. Teaching students to think computationally is about moving technology projects beyond using tools and information toward creating tools and information. ~ Computer Science Teachers’ Association


Getting Started with CT and Coding:  A Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence As a teacher interested in computational thinking skills, coding and/or robotics, you have multiple entry points and an endless supply of information - all of which can seem rather overwhelming at times. The Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence resource was created to support teachers and students as they move through the various stages of learning to code, to coding to learn.


Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence


Computational Thinking & Coding Scope and Sequence Companion Doc




“Coding gives you the basis to understand the world of today and control the world of tomorrow.

There are few more rewarding experiences one can have.”

~ Jeff Skoll, Founder, Participant Media





leah cassell.jpg


Leigh Cassell loves kids. She is an adventurer, innovator and partner in learning with teachers and students around the world. Leigh works as an AMDSB Teaching and Learning Coach and she is Founder & President of the Digital Human Library. Leigh’s expertise centres around integrating technologies effectively to inspire in others a love of learning, creating global connections for teachers and students, shaping new literacy skills, helping students develop 21st Century Competencies, and preparing students to succeed as next generation learners.

Click here to return to Coding Hub Main Page




By Peter AnelloUntitled.jpg




As a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator, I likely have one of the best jobs that anyone with the slightest interest and passion for technology could ever have and I absolutely love it!


Being able to help staff and students learn the latest skills and pedagogies related to technology in education some days feels like I should be paying to do this instead of getting paid - it can be that fun.


"You can't teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it." - Papert



Welcome the micro:bit

I was lucky enough to spend three morning blocks with a grade 6/7 class over the span of five school days in October, introducing students to the micro:bit.


Day One


We discussed algorithms and programs, and how computers need these to complete even the simplest task. Scanning the room, students for the most part knew what the difference was.


We watched the Brain Pop video ( and completed the Dice Race activity (


Each group was then tasked to describe all steps to play the game and writing these steps down.

To capture student understanding and wrap up day one, I used Flipgrid (for the first time!). It is an amazing and easy way to capture student voice in the form of video; so powerful.


Day Two


The next day I introduced the micro:bit ( Students worked in pairs and we completed a couple of introductory activities to get familiar with makecode (


The die roll simulator ( was definitely a challenge, which I had anticipated.


Day Three


At the end of day two, I was worried that by jumping right into conditional statements with the group I would turn some students off with the idea of coding. Thankfully as we started up on day three, there was no worry at all.


Some students were excited to show me and each other what they had programmed, with others asking for help with some basic concepts of code. It was

exciting to see this all take place, especially after four days since the last day I was with them.


We consolidated the activity by having students share their programs. It was a great opportunity to see how some students' programs were slightly different than others and with close inspection, performed similarly.


To make use of these die simulators that the students had created, we then moved to play a game of SKUNK ( I had never heard of the game, but Lisa Floyd had shared this game with me (she learned of it from the math team at TVDSB) in conversation as I was sharing my plans with the class with her.




My biggest takeaway from this activity was that students aren’t provided enough opportunities to explore the world of coding and how it can be integrated into their classes. Teachers are trying to ‘fit it in’, but with such a rigid schedule of curriculum to follow, most tend to keep with what they’re comfortable with.


"I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge." - Papert


That’s where I come in!


Coding/programming naturally has a low-floor, high ceiling. Being a newer concept for most, I honestly feel that once teachers are provided an opportunity to see the many affordances that computational thinking can provide for their students, it’ll be a no-brainer that they’ll want to implement it.


See the fuller version of this blog here.


Peter Anello is a Technology-Enabled Learning Facilitator with the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board. He blogs about his experiences with Computational Thinking, Coding and other Educational Technology topics at

beyond the hour of code

Many school boards in Ontario have geared up for the global Hour of Code event this week during Computer Science Education Week. Superior-Greenstone District School Board (SGDSB) in Northern Ontario has taken a unique approach with supporting and encouraging K-12 learners to not only participate in the Hour of Code, but to go beyond and to build on this initiative with their annual “Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge”.


Stacey Wallwin, SGDSB’s Technology Enabled Teaching and Learning Contact has led the challenge each year and it has proven to be successful in increasing awareness about the importance of computational thinking and encouraging widespread participation within the board.

Wallwin believes that coding is becoming a new digital literacy that teaches students to not only code, but to be computational thinkers while practicing and demonstrating 21st century competencies such as critical thinking/problem solving, creativity, learning to learn/self-directed learning, global citizenship, communication and collaboration. “We are preparing them for the increasingly digital and globally-connected world beyond our Superior-Greenstone borders. We want our students to be the creators of technology not just consumers,” she explains.


Wallwin emphasizes that teachers are not expected to be coding experts in her classrooms. “We want them to begin the journey as co-learners with their students. We don’t ask that they be coders, we ask that they be learners!” She has been amazed at the mindset students develop as they practice computational thinking.  One grade 2 Beardmore Public School student commented on the frequency of errors, growth mindset and subsequent learning: “You mess up all the time because you don’t know, but you debug.”

We asked Wallwin to share how her school board implements the “Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge” and she was more than happy to do so.  She has shared the rationale for her approach as well as details on how the weekly challenges were implemented.  The ultimate goal is equity of learning and to ensure all SGDSB students have the same opportunities  to engage with computational thinking as students in other boards.


Check out the Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge here, including a link to each of the challenges.


Stacey’s bio:


Stacey Wallwin has been an educator with Superior-Greenstone District School Board in various capacities throughout her career. She is currently the Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact (TELTC)and District e-Learning Coordinator (DeLC). She is a passionate reader and life-long learner who believes that anything is possible when we keep our learners at the forefront of everything we do. She leverages the power of technology to break down the geographical barriers that isolate learners in her board, to connect learners and ideas and celebrate the joy in her schools.


Stacey is most grateful for all her colleagues, and mentors who have generously shared their wisdom, best practices and classrooms with her over the years, and most importantly the students who continue to push her thinking and big ideas. She is grateful to be a part of the coding conversation, and acknowledges that it is only through her relationships and professional connections that she has been empowered to support others.

She enjoys time outdoors on the shores of Lake Superior, time with her nephews, and ship watching on Lake Huron. She is a self-professed boatnerd!


You can follow Stacey’s learning on Twitter @WallwinS and her ship watching adventures on Instagram: @swallwin

Visit her blog, Learning, Sharing and a Leap of Faith, at:

Coding Queries

Posted by Feb 1, 2018

We asked three Ontario educators three questions
related to their experience with coding and computational thinking.


Donna Forster is a Student Program Support Teacher with the London District Catholic School Board.

Jamie Mallais is a teacher with the Superior Greenstone District School Board.

Ryan Matthews is an Instructional Coach with the Thames Valley District
School Board.

What was the main reason(s) that you began coding/computational thinking activities with students?


Donna Forster: I was looking for ways to engage students at lunch time in the hope of reducing behaviours that occurred during that block of time and I was aware that students were unsure of what computer science was, even those leaving our school in grade 8. At the same time, the Prime Minister of Canada the Education Minister and the whole world was communicating the importance of computational thinking, coding and opening up to the idea of "measuring what matters". I wanted the students from my school to have a "leg up" on what was/is obviously "coming down".

kids coding


Jamie Mallais: I started coding with my students because of the math connections. I wanted to use practical and interactive tools to help cement understanding for specific content. It had the added benefit of helping the students think in terms of variables (if I change this line of code, what will change in my outcome) as well as making math more fun and less intimidating. We made connections with geometry, angle relationships, and linear equations.


Ryan Matthews: I saw coding as an opportunity to challenge my students in ways I wasn't able to before. I saw them engage in a task with an unwavering determination to see the task through. As I became more comfortable with the ins and outs, I began to see just how many ways coding/CT could used to amplify our curriculum.


What were some memorable moments, quotes or experiences from your time working with students in coding/computational thinking activities?


DF: In general, I noticed spatial reasoning, spatial thinking, and spatial language use. I also noticed students using the tools to develop mathematical thinking. Specifically, we looked at Spatial Sense and Geometry. I noticed our students step up and become leaders. I noticed students being more engaged, and I noticed some wonderful and memorable quotes from our students:

  • "Mrs. Forster your code is wrong" - Kindergarten student
  • "I'm so proud of myself. Guess who is smart now"" -Grade 8 student
  • "I'm a programmer" - Kindergarten student

kids codingJM: I've watched students work together and collaborate to trouble-shoot a problem with their programs. Students have physically acted out their programs to break down the steps and vocalize their thinking to share with their peers. I've also watched students stick with a problem and keep working to solve it when traditionally they just give up or skip to the next problem.


RM: We were in Scott McKenzie's (@ScottMcKenzie27) class doing a patterning activity with Arduinos. I challenged a group to code some LEDs to mimic stop lights. We worked through what a typical stop light and then the group went at it. I told them I didn't think they could do it    A few minutes later they called me over to check out their code. I was greeted with a "Booyah, we did it, in your face!" The enthusiasm and excitement, all related to problem solving, was awesome and we caught it all on video. I saw incredible focus, determination (stick-to-it-iveness), curiosity and learning within these coding tasks. It was really eye-opening.


What suggestions would you give to someone who is thinking of introducing students to coding/computational thinking activities?


kids codingDF: Do not be afraid to start. Just DO IT! Learn with your students. Have fun. Reach out to others for help (secondary school, other students, twitter, workshops, books), do on line tutorials (scratch, scratch junior, hour of code). Be humble. You are never too old to learn something new.


JM: DO IT! Don't be afraid to try it - you might not know everything (or anything) to start, but learn beside your students and let them develop their computational thinking abilities. Or, let your students be the experts and teach each other.


RM: I would suggest trying out whatever you are going to ask your students to do first. I feel that in experiencing it, you will get a better sense of whether the task is appropriate for your students (in terms of the challenge and learning). Dr. Gadanidis gave me the best advice when it comes to coding that I think of often when designing tasks. He said to not let the coding get in the way. Simple coding, complex coding


Follow-up questions for educators:

  • How do coding and computational thinking activities give students a "leg up"?
  • What role does equity play in terms of providing coding and computational thinking tasks for all of our students in all of our schools?
  • How does coding provide an interesting and valuable entry point into the investigation of mathematical concepts?
  • What role does resilience play in coding tasks?
  • Is it possible to transfer this "stick-to-it-iveness" (copyright Ryan Matthews) to other areas of learning?
  • How do coding and computational thinking tasks facilitate collaboration?
  • Are there specific students who, while normally quiet and introverted, seem to come out of their shells and “teach others” when engaged in coding and computational thinking tasks?


Donna Forster works as a Special Education Teacher for the London District Catholic School Board. Donna Forster headshotShe considers herself a lifelong learner and is always looking for new things to try. Most recently, she has been learning coding and robotics in an intergenerational learning environment where students teach teachers and teachers are students of students.


Ryan Matthews is an Instructional Coach with the Thames Valley District School. ryan matthews headshotHe is passionate about the purposeful integration of technology to both engage and empower his students. He still considers himself a novice when it comes to coding but is learning more and more every day. Ryan is regularly exploring both Scratch and Arduino applications for new ways to integrate each into the curriculum.


Jamie Mallais is currently teaching mathematics, Jamie Mallais headshotsocial science, and continuing education at Mantiouwadge High School with the Superior Greenstone District School Board. She is passionate about using and incorporating technology in her daily life along with her teaching practice and is a part of the SGDSB Technology Champions Team.

By Steve Floyd

Literacy is about more than reading or writing -- it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture.

Those who use literacy take it for granted -- but those who cannot use it are excluded from much communication in today's world. Indeed, it is the excluded who can best appreciate the notion of "literacy as freedom."

UNESCO, Statement for the United Nations Literacy Decade, 2003-2012



The integration of coding in Language Arts provides students with an opportunity to develop skills and competencies across a variety of strands including Oral Communication, Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy. Well developed coding and computational thinking tasks provide students with a context whereby they engage in areas that include, but are not limited to:


  • Developing Ideas
  • Organizing ideas
  • Extending Understanding
  • Clarity and Coherence
  • Producing Media Texts

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised




The following activity involves students representing stories using draggable blocks of code to control characters and events that take place on the screen.


The following document may be useful to use during class activities.


As students engage in these activities, educators may find opportunities to prompt students and to extend student thinking or activities.


Teachers are expected to plan activities that blend expectations from the four strands in order to provide students with the kinds of experiences that promote meaningful learning and that help students recognize how literacy skills in the four areas reinforce and strengthen one another.

From The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grades 1-8, Revised


1. Present students with an appropriate story.


story clip


2. Have students decompose the story into smaller parts. Decomposing the story allows students to analyze each part on its own and is an important planning and design step. This decomposition can be done individually, in small groups, or together as a class with the story projected or written on the board.


story clip

screen capture of scratch jr. program



3. Have students choose an appropriate background (setting) and sprite (character). Both Scratch Jr and Scratch allow students to change backgrounds and sprites (a small image that can be controlled in a computer program). The selection of these program components requires students to consider the story elements carefully. A classroom discussion here works great.


4. Have students program the sprite. Ensure that students pay close attention to detail: Freddy walks to his bed, hops three times, then falls and bumps his head on his fourth hop.


screen capture of scratch jr. program


5. Have students share their programs with each other and add elements. Students may enjoy discussing the similarities and differences between their program and the program created by their classmate. Students may also enjoy adding sounds, speech bubbles or additional elements to extend the complexity of their programs.



6. Provide students with a second story to program.

screen capture of scratch jr. program

stacked commands in Scratch Jr.

This time, allow students to decompose the story and select program elements on their own. Again, they can share their finished product with their classmates to discuss similarities and differences.


7. Extend the activity allowing for creativity on the part of the students.

    • Allow students to write their own story for the class to program (they will have to carefully consider the background, sprites and actions that can be programmed).
    • Allow students to write a story and program it on their own. Then have them share the finished program with a classmate. This classmate can view the program and write what they believe to be the story. Students can then compare the “developers” story with the “viewers” story to see similarities and differences.


Coding and computational thinking activities such as this allow for a variety of additions, substitutions and extensions. Often teachers, and even students, will head off in a variety of different and valuable directions fuelled by curiosity. I would encourage educators to embrace these opportunities.

The first time, begin by following this lesson as instructed. As the lesson progresses, pay attention to student discussions, successes and challenges. You will then be prepared to alter the lesson in an effort to ensure that it meets the needs of future students.


By Scott McKenzie


I have a confession --

I stopped taking math classes after grade 10 because it justScott Mackenzie headshotseemed too hard.

I liked math but just didn't seem to understand the methods and processes we were expected to follow.

I have another confession --

I have no background in computer science or programming at all.

I simply believe students should have the opportunity to learn how to program, and so began teaching myself a few years ago.

Now math is my favorite subject to teach, and I love integrating coding into my program wherever it seems to work well.

I am sharing an open-ended math and coding challenge I developed involving a Sphero robot. Students had to work through the challenge collaboratively and problem-solve with all their math skills to build and create a maze for the robot to navigate. It was a great experience for everyone involved.

In the challenge (outlined in the center panel of the page) the students were presented with on the day of the competition, you'll see that there are lots of insertion points depending on the math knowledge, and coding abilities of the students.

Every team had an opportunity to build a maze and were successful at the end of the day. They dug deep with their math knowledge, and tried to be creative, thinking mathematically through both the design and building of their maze. They used computational thinking skills as they planned and made connections between both math and coding. Watching students work through this process was a fantastic experience. In the right panel of the page, you'll find a video clip of the day of the competition.

The students themselves worked collaboratively and I too worked collaboratively to design this challenge for both teachers and students. I had the opportunity to work with Mary Sue Merideth, and John Lee from our Learning Services department at the Waterloo Regional District School Board. I also worked with my Elementary Information Technology consultant, Becky Rouse. I learned so much through the experience, and was honoured to work with such talented, and passionate people.

What have I learned? Students will crave challenges if we give them scaffolded problems that they can work through to build upon their skills. They quickly develop confidence in their ability to figure out more complex challenges, and will work for a sustained period of time to meet a goal.

Would I do it all again? Yes! This year we are going to do the same competition again, but will be incorporating a new, advanced challenge- Can you code two or more Spheros to work together in a shared chassis to race around a track? It seems like a difficult challenge, but I'm confident that teams will find a way to succeed!


Scott’s Bio:


Scott McKenzie has been an educator with the Waterloo Regional District School Board for 18 years. He currently teaches Grade 3/4 at New Dundee Public School. He regularly shares his learning with technology at various conferences and in OTF webinars. He was honoured to speak at TedxKitchenerED in 2014.


Scott is a strong believer that all children should feel successful at school, and utilizes technology to meet the needs of all learners in his classroom. This past year he worked on a project integrating coding and robotics as tools to deepen student comprehension in Mathematics and Language Arts from Grades 1 through 6.


Questions, want to connect with Scott? Twitter: @ScottMcKenzie27Blog:


Also checkout:

Mazecraft PowerPoint

Let's Try the Sphero Challenge

Sphero Coding Challenge Video

CustomLogo (1).jpgBy Peter Beens

President of the ACSE


The Association for Computer Studies Education (ACSE) is a non-profit province-wide professional association dedicated to supporting Computer Studies (ICS) and Computer Technology (TEJ) education in Ontario. Our mandate is to provide multi-faceted support for educators and students by providing a unified voice for Computer Studies and Computer Technology teachers, improving information sharing across the secondary level, facilitating dialogue with colleges and universities, facilitating dialogue with business and industry, creating new opportunities for teacher training, and supporting the development of teaching resources. To join our mail list or learn about our annual conference, please visit us at


Note: with “coding” becoming so prevalent in elementary schools the past few years, we are beginning to expand our mandate by including relevant K-8 presentations in our annual conference. See the link above for details.


Additional Note (from Steve Floyd): I have been a part of the ACSE mail list and an attendee and presenter at past ACSE conferences. This is a wonderful organization and I would encourage all teachers interested in coding, computational thinking, computing and computer studies to visit their site and consider joining their mail list and attending their conference.