We asked three educators in Ontario three questions related to
their experience with coding and computational thinking.
Jackie Leardi is an Accompagnatrice en technopédagogie (Tech Instructional Coach) with
the Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence.
Ryan Smith is a Technology Services Consultant with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
Catherine Veteri is a Mathematics and Physical Education teacher
with the London District Catholic School Board.
What was the main reason(s) that you began coding/computational thinking activities with students?
Jackie Leardi: As a team, we understood it was important for students to experience coding/computational thinking in order to learn how to be creators of technology and not just consumers of technology. We also saw the obvious connections to the math and science curriculum. Coding/computational thinking became a tool to teach all areas of the curriculum while exposing them to the fundamentals of computer science.
Ryan Smith: At first, it was out of teacher demand. Teachers were saying "I am hearing lots about coding in schools and I was wondering if you could help us out learn more". I have an interest and some background in coding/computer science and I was interested in learning more since I had never block coded myself. As we (as a school board) began coding with more classes, we started learning more about the "why" of coding. This led us to computational thinking. We are still working towards trying to help students develop their creativity and computational thinking skills. At the same time, we are also working at teaching students to code and use coding as a creative outlet.
Catherine Veteri: Our world is radically changing, and I did not want to be a teacher that feels "the way I learned was good enough for me so it is good enough for our students". I want my own children and my students to receive an education that will prepare them for their future.
What were some memorable moments, quotes or experiences from your time working with students in coding/computational thinking activities?
JL: I'm always humbled to see students teaching their teachers how to code. For some students, it's the first time they can teach their teacher something new. The students show immense pride and the teachers, all of sudden, have a new respect for those students. The transformation is amazing.
RS: A student coded a 'mindful breathing' project that she made for her school for the school's "mindful minute" that they had during each assembly on Friday. We submitted her project to MIT as an example of student work and they profiled her work at a fundraiser for Scratch. She was over the moon excited with how many different people were impacted by her mindful breathing project.
CV: My favorite moment was watching students code their Sphero balls, that when dipped in paint, spelled out the acronym of our school board. The precision and enthusiasm was astounding to see.
What suggestions would you give to someone who is thinking of introducing students to coding/computational thinking activities?
JL: Coding/computational thinking is a great tool for teaching many subjects and everyone can do it! Don't think you have to be a professional computer programmer to teach coding. Ask for help and learn from others who are coding with their students.
RS: Don't be scared. Learning alongside your students is a great way to model "how learning happens" and "lifelong" learning. I have had students teach me more and show me crazier cool ideas and other ways of thinking about coding when you give them an open-ended suggestion and let them go. Don't get overwhelmed by knowing everything about coding. I certainly don't. Exposing students to coding can be opening a door for some awesome learning for students and yourself.
CV: To have fun with it and understand that some of the students in the room may pick it up more quickly than you... this allows for more "teachers" in one room. It is our students’ future, they deserve it and it’s worth the leap on our part.