Thursday, October 2, 2014

Want to Teach Programming or Coding? Try One of These....

Want to teach computer programming and coding in your classroom? Do you know where to start?  Do you even know anything about computer programming and coding? I have discovered that many teachers, like me, love the idea of teaching computer programming and coding but have absolutely no clue where to begin. Let's also not forget about the comfort factor.  It can be incredibly uncomfortable and scary to teach something to a room full of students that is unfamiliar and intimidating. One thing that I have come to appreciate and love about education is that there is always someone willing to do the dirty work, and then share EVERYTHING they have created.

I want to tell you about Google CS First, SPRK and Livecode.  Three programs I have had the opportunity to interact with and as a result have finally found some great starting points for introducing computer programming and coding to my students.  

Google CS First

CS First was developed by Google and focuses on increasing student access and exposure to Computer Science (CS) Education.  This program has been developed to capture the interest of students with various likes and interests. The wonderful thing about this program is that the curriculum (aka Club Plans) and materials have already been developed, created and are ready for implementation.  The CS First club plans target students in grades 4 – 8.

Scratch Game Design, Scratch Music and Sound, and Scratch Storytelling are three club plans that have been fully developed and ready for implementation.  Word on the street is that by the end of the 2014 - 2015 school year there could be an additional six club plans added.  The CS First program is something that you hold before or after school, during the summer, or as part of your regular computer lab time.  Google will even help you find volunteers (that they call gurus) in your community to come in to help and/or teach the CS First program.

To get started with the CS First program, go to the CS First website and sign in with Google account.  The first time you sign in you will be asked to identify your role and location.  You can then create a club, choose a theme, and set the specifics for your club. Everything you will need to make this program successful is outlined, and for the most part provided for you by Google.

Check out this example of a video game created by a student who participated in the CS First program.

SPRK (Schools Parents Robots Kids)

SPRK was created because the developers of this program believe that play is powerful.  To participate in this program all you need is a sphero.  A sphero is a small white ball that can be be programmed to perform specific tasks.  SPRK lessons have already been developed and are ready to be downloaded and used. The lessons are detailed enough that anyone can either teach the lesson or learn on their own.  In addition to the SPRK lessons, there are also SPRK challenges.  These challenges are designed to get students solving complex problems and working as a member of a team.  Students will have the opportunity to create, share, and discuss concepts learned.SPRK lessons tie to different common core math standards for 4th and 5th grade. Such as:
  • Percentages - mixing colors at different levels to change the color the sphero glows.
  • Simple Geometry and Anglesmake the sphero drive a square, pentagon, or rectangle to recreate learned shapes.
  • Fractions – provide a specific fraction and have the students calculate how to adjust the sphero to get the exact color.
  • Math operations – command the sphero to drive in a square, then use a multiplier or divisor to double or halve the square size.
  • Logic – command the sphero to preform a sequence of steps to navigate a course.
            To get started with the SPRK program first you will need to order a sphero. (Be sure to ask about educational pricing!)  Once you have received the sphero, download the apps MacroLab and orbBasic to an android or an iOS device, and download the SPRK lessons.



       Livecode is a program that you can use with those students (and maybe even yourself) that are already somewhat familiar with programming and coding and are ready to create an app for multiple platforms. The best part of Livecode is you code the way you think.  Livecode uses everyday words in it's coding and not symbols like the Xcode and C++.  The Community Edition of Livecode is a free download and a great option when you are just learning and starting to create apps. When you get to a point where you would like to distribute your app, Livecode allows you to upgrade to the Commerical Edition. Livecode provides different training options listed here
     Check out the app Science with Tom - Matter.  It's an app developed by a coding novice and created in Livecode. 

1 comment:

  1. I love what you've written here. It's wonderful to see how accessible computer science is to the elementary teacher today. These STEM activities are drumming up interest at a younger age than ever and I'm happy to see teachers taking advantage of the coding resources.