Fostering Global Competencies through Coding Activities: Part 2 of 3

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cover of Global Competencies book

By Steve and Lisa Floyd


In 2016 Ontario's Ministry of Education released a foundation document for discussion that focused on 21st century and global competencies.


"What’s new in the 21st century is the call for education systems to emphasize and develop these competencies in explicit and intentional ways through deliberate changes in curriculum design and pedagogical practice." (p. 3)



The Ministry also released their Framework for Global Competencies that was adapted from the foundation document as well as the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) Pan-Canadian Global Competencies.


This framework identifies the following six global competencies:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship
  • Self-Directed Learning
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Citizenship


Image of student desk with computer, wires and books

Our experience in high school and elementary classrooms across Ontario lead us to believe that coding and computational thinking activities provide a rich context in which students can explore and develop within these competencies.


Below you will find two of the six global competencies identified in the framework – Self-Directed Learning and Collaboration. Check out this past article highlighting the first two of the six global competencies listed above.


Accompanying these competencies is an explanation of how the context of coding, and associated classroom activities, can help students explore and develop within these competencies.


It is our intention to follow up this discussion with information related to the remaining two Global competencies (stay tuned).




Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning means: becoming aware and demonstrating agency in one’s process of learning, including the development of dispositions that support motivation, perseverance, resilience, and self-regulation. Belief in one’s ability to learn (growth mindset), combined with strategies for planning, monitoring and reflecting on one’s past, present, and future goals, potential actions and strategies, and results. Self-reflection and thinking about thinking (metacognition) promote lifelong learning, adaptive capacity, well-being, and transfer of learning in an ever-changing world. (From the Framework for Global Competencies).


Student Descriptors

(From the Framework for Global Competencies)



The Coding Context


Classroom Activities


Students learn the process of learning (metacognition) (e.g., in dependence, goal-setting, motivation) and believe in their ability to learn and grow (growth mindset)



Seymour Papert, a leading researcher in computers and education, explained that as students program a computer, they are essentially teaching the computer how to think. In doing so, they begin to consider how they themselves think. Students can also consider what they know, and what they need to know, in order to complete a project.


  • Students can reflect on the nature of the instructions they provide to the computer. They can explain what “appropriate sequencing of instructions” means, or how the right code, in the wrong order, can lead to problems.
  • Students can also identify and evaluate a variety of resources that could be used to help support their learning in the area of code (teacher, classmates, online tutorials, past projects, etc).


Students self-regulate in order to become lifelong learners and reflect on their thinking, experience, values, and critical feedback to enhance their learning. They also monitor the progress of their own learning.


The nature of programming means that students are constantly being given feedback on their work. They write and run their program, are made aware of errors, and then debug those errors. This constant reiteration becomes a habit and they no longer expect to write a perfect program the first time.



  • Students can reflect on and describe their debugging practices and experiences with classmates. How do they test their programs? How do they find errors in the code?

       How do they fix them?

  • Students can reflect on their progress and maybe come aware of how far they have come and how much they have learned. This can sometimes be a motivator and ensures that students are aware of their own recent growth in the area of coding.



Students develop their identity in the Canadian context (e.g., origin and diversity) and consider their connection to the environment. They cultivate emotional intelligence to understand themselves and others. They take the past into account to understand the present and approach the future.



Computer programming and technology are having an impact on all areas of life. The better students understand the pervasiveness of these technologies, and their advantages and disadvantages, the better they can create ethical and accessible software that will improve our lives.


  • Students can consider a wide variety of accessibility concerns and program use for their software (physical disabilities, low vision, colour blindness, etc.).
  • Students can interview a wide variety of potential clients, from young children to the elderly, in order to better understand technology use, and to foster empathetic software design.
  • Students can begin to understand how computers and software connect to our environment, both in positive and negative ways.



Students develop personal, educational, and career goals and persevere to overcome challenges to reach goals. They adapt to change and show resilience to adversity.



Careers in STEM and CS are expanding and it’s important for students to be exposed to these potential careers.

An understanding of basic programming concepts will also help in other “non-STEM” and “non-CS” fields, that are impacted by these technologies.



  • Students can research careers in STEM and CS and can consider the skills associated with these areas of work.
  • Students can reflect on a programming project that was difficult or that presented challenges to them. They can reflect on how they overcame these challenges and how they could use these same techniques in overcoming challenges in other areas of life.


Students manage various aspects of their life: physical, emotional (relationships, self-awareness), spiritual, and mental well-being.



The act of coding involves physical interaction with a digital device. Allowing students to closely examine the relationship they have with digital devices allows them to be aware of the impact these devices can have (both positive and negative) on their lives.



  • Students can consider the physical nature of their interaction with computers (should they take breaks? Should they stretch? Is their working environment ergonomic? Are they sedentary?).
  • Students can develop an awareness of their surroundings when they are working with digital devices (Are they collaborative? Are they secluded? Can they pay attention to others? Are they mindful?).
  • Students can develop their own computer use guidelines that relate to their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well being. These can be combined into a into a collaborative, class set of guidelines.



Click here for a downloadable PDF of this Self-Directed Learning chart.





Collaboration involves the interplay of the cognitive (including thinking and reasoning), interpersonal, and intrapersonal competencies necessary to participate effectively and ethically in teams. Ever-increasing versatility and depth of skill are applied across diverse situations, roles, groups, and perspectives in order to co-construct knowledge, meaning, and content, and learn from, and with, others in physical and virtual environments. (From the Framework for Global Competencies)



Student Descriptors

(From the Framework for Global Competencies)


The coding context


 Classroom Activities


Students participate in teams by establishing positive and respectful relationships, developing trust and acting co-operatively and with integrity.



Coding activities in the classroom often involve a natural setting for collaborative work. Students will seek out solutions from classmates or are willing to share new techniques, tips and tricks that they have learned on their own.



  • Paired programming (two students on one device) can be a valuable experience for students. One student can assume the role of “navigator”, providing instructions to the second students, the “driver “driver” who writes the code.
  • Gallery walks allow students to see other work, consider other perspectives and solutions, and learn how to contribute positively and constructively to others’ projects.


Students learn from and contribute to the learning of others by co-constructing knowledge, meaning, and content.


Coding activities often elicit comments like “whoa, check this out” or “wow, how’d you do that?”
These provide valuable opportunities for natural collaboration and the sharing of knowledge. Having students explain their work to others also helps develop their communication of technical concepts and ideas.


  • Students can be encouraged to learn something new about a coding environment or language, and then be asked to share this knowledge with the class.
  • A shared, class document could be used that would allow students to share helpful tips and resources. Students could co-construct the rules and guidelines for the use of this shared document.


Students assume various roles on the team, respect a diversity of perspectives, and address disagreements and manage conflict in a sensitive and constructive manner.



Larger coding projects provide a valuable opportunity for collaborative work involving a shared goal.

This realistic and authentic experience can serve as a valuable context for helping students develop important communication and relationship building skills.



  • Students can consider, or research, how large software projects are completed (operating systems, video games, etc). Students can gain an appreciations for the number of people involved and the collaboration that is required to complete such a large task.
  • When projects or classroom activities are complete, have students reflect on the diversity of perspectives, the disagreements or the conflicts that might have appeared during the project. Allow them to consider the positive ways in which these were resolved.


Students network with a variety of communities/groups and use an array of technology appropriately to work with others.


Organizations and community groups are influenced by technology and make regular use of software. They often work with software developers to request changes and improvements in programs. Often, they are experiencing problems or efficiency issues that can be solved by computer programs. These provide real-world opportunities for students to consider and think critically about – an opportunity for some computational thinking support.




  • Students can be mentored to connect with various organizations to learn of the software needs and then come up with their own plans and even workable solutions. Local businesses or community-based organizations might be willing to share some of their challenges related to technology. Video conferencing offers an affordable option for networking with experts or individuals willing to present real-world problems for students to consider. Within their own school community, students might interview their peers about their own technology uses and needs, wants and issues.


  • Students can also be made aware of the online communities that exist for both professional and amateur programmers (teachers should, of course, ensure that students understand safe and effective ways of using these online communities).
  • Students can share their completed projects with programming communities and allow individuals to remix or suggest improvements for their work.
  • Students from classrooms that are physically separated could work on an online collaborative project in order to apply effective communication software and skills.



Click here for a downloadable PDF of this Collaboration chart. 


Read Part One of this series here.

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