In this installment of TeachOntario Talks, we are celebrating the work of Waterloo Region District School Board educator, Scott McKenzie, a grade 3/4 teacher at New Dundee Public School. Scott led eight other colleagues on a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) to promote learning through Integrating Computational Thinking into the Curriculum.
Scott McKenzie is in his 18th year of teaching and strongly believes that all children should feel successful at school. He utilizes technology to meet the needs of all learners in his classroom. Scott initiated the project to integrate coding and robotics, as tools to deepen student comprehension, across all subjects from grades 1-6. He used Scratch Jr. and Scratch coding. In the project, Scott asked his fellow educators to pose connected problems, provoke student thinking, and thoughtfully facilitate learning with an assessment focus. Students were asked to solve problems and engage in mathematical reasoning, share their thinking and construct understanding within a community of learners.
When recruiting other educators to embark on this journey, Scott sought to include those with a range of experiences in coding. As a result the diverse group included someone with a background in digital technology as well as a few educators who were brand-new to coding. What this group shared, however, were habits of mind such as optimism, enthusiasm, a curiosity about learning and an openness to taking on new challenges.
The students were taught coding and then invited to use it in a range of subjects to deepen their understanding and express their thinking. Many of the participating students entered the MazeCraft Challenge which offered them a chance to compete against other teams to use coding to solve a design challenge.
· Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking
· Real-World Application of Mathematics
The rich learning that came from the “Integrating Computational Thinking into Curriculum” project has intrigued other educators both within the board and across the province. The educators introduced coding to support learning and invited children to explore a new way of demonstrating their thinking.
The impact was transformative as it empowered learners to express themselves in a way they hadn’t explored before as they developed a new fluency in the language of coding, resulting in a new-found sense of confidence. The educators all felt that this project had a huge impact on their own understanding of coding as well as how to leverage digital technology to engage and support their learners. The project resulted in a website being developed for the educators to share their resources and insights as well as a book that they published entitled: Coding in the Elementary Classroom, which is in high demand.