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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 (https://www.itworldcanada.com/sponsored/hottest-tech-jobs-coming-into-2018)
  • 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?

 

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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

 

 


 

 

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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.