When I first started hearing about coding on Twitter, I was intrigued. I remember when I was in school learning how to use Basic programming. “If this then that… ” and Go to Line XX” statements bring back frustrating memories of the green screens. I at first figured I needed to take a class to figure out how to program myself, then learn to teach it, then bring it into my middle school classroom. After hearing a few elementary teachers talk about coding clubs and coding in their classrooms, I figured I needed to get up to speed with coding so my students could experience it. As I was checking out coding sites, I noticed that Code.org celebrated an anniversary and placed a version of the “flappy bird” came on their site. At the same time my 4th hour ten week “Maker” class was begging to try something new.
So, I took the plunge. I worked through the code.org activities at night, teaching them the next day. My students were instantly engaged. Eager to make their own games. Being a group of diverse learners, some were done in minutes, while others took all class period. All ended up making a game. The learning that was happening in the classroom was astounding. Students were asking each other meaningful questions, trying different lines of code, failing and then fixing the fail. They were proud to share their games with classmates.
Every seventh grade advisory class heard about our “games”. Students who took the class earlier in the year complained that they did not get to code. We continued through the lessons on code.org until the students wanted freedom to make something on their own instead of using prescribed codes. We have since moved on to Scratch, which allows the students more freedom to create animated scenes and games. I am barely ahead of the students, often having to model problem solving skills on the fly to help them find success. We are learning to code as a class. The class has experts who even I go to with questions, because they go home and “play” with code to produce their desired results. A few students aren’t as engaged but they still are learning how to figure out code.
If you haven’t tried coding with your students, you should do it! I saw learning in the rawest form. We were learning as a class. Everyone wanted to complete the task. I now have students who are not enrolled in the class but e-mailing in the assignments to show what they have learned by following the class tasks list. Coding has lead to more engagement in authentic learning for my students. They are coming to class wanting to see what they can learn each and every day.