Constructionism, Coding and Me

I have been taking Edtech courses with Dr. Couros since 2018, and every week I learn something new.  The act of trying new tools instead of just reading about them has helped me grow into a more curious learner and teacher.  The best part is incorporating these news tools with my students.

I had fun this week experimenting with the Logo emulator and workbook after a brief introduction during our class to the “turtle”.  I enjoyed the repetitive nature of the workbook exercises and started to understand how I was using a variety of problem solving skills to complete each exercise. With each task, my first priority was figuring out the repetitive pattern and then understanding how to orientate the turtle.

 

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Math was always one of my favourite subjects in school and I think I enjoyed these exercises in the Logo workbook because of the similarities. Using the same process for many exercises and only changing the variables to create different end products.  I stopped after the staircase exercise feeling quite proud of what I learned to do in a fairly short time. Silicon Valley, here I come!

I have never played with or experimented with coding before this week. To be perfect honest, although I felt like it was important to include in schools, I did not really understand why.  And I think this is because I did not have an real experience playing with code and how it works. This relates to Seymour Papert’s Constructionism Learning Theory and the idea that learner’s make mental models to understand the world around them.  To understand the Logo exercises, I was trying to visualize before writing out the code and considering what the end product would be before hitting “run”.  Makerspace for Education explains that “students learn best by making tangible objects through authentic, real life learning opportunities that allow for a guided, collaborative process which incorporates peer feedback.” This short video gives a great explanation of constructionism and how it is about “putting the learner in the centre and having them experience the concept in an authentic way and construct their understanding of it” (1:03).

To  understand the value of learning something like Logo with school-aged children, I sought out the help from an expert (and friend!). Kathleen Fellinger is the publisher and co-founder of a local Regina website, KinderBuzz and is a Web Designer & Consultant with over 18 years experience.  I was curious about her recommendations of tools for a variety of different ages to learn more about coding and why it is important to provide these types of learning experiences in schools.  Kathleen explained that there are a variety of organizations and sites that offer coding lessons and support for kids and their families at almost every grade level.  The most important part is figuring out what the child is interested in, like building a website, designing a mod for Minecraft, Roblox, video or game design or even app design.

Here are Kathleen’s top picks to help grow student interest in coding:

  • CODE.ORG – An excellent resource for kids or adults with great coding classes.
  • CODE MONKEY  – Game-based environment to learn code (Paid subscription).
  • SCRATCH – Free resource.  Kathleen suggests starting here to test it out and see if your child is interested before you move onto a paid service.
  • RaspberryPi – A great program for younger children and those that want to learn about coding robots or AI.
  • DAISY THE DINOSAUR  – A fun app to learn the basics of coding for ages 4+, but it is helpful if the child can read.
  • GRASSHOPPER APP – A free service and a great place to start if you are interested in learning Javascript.
  • CODAKid.com – Online coding courses that you can try for free before subscribing.
  • TYKER – Coding games and courses for kids based on interests, but you eventually have to subscribe to the service.
  • KHAN ACADEMY – A free resource where you can learn many different coding languages.

A very important point that Kathleen raised was that these programs and opportunities are wonderful if students have access to the technology to learn these tools.  Since many of these experiences take place with students outside of school, we are relying on families to provide the technology and support to let students explore the world of coding.  THIS is why it is so important to provide learning opportunities like the Makerspace movement and STEM/STEAM environments in schools.  There are many resources that help families “teach your kids to code”, but there are also initiatives that schools can explore, like the Minecraft: Education Edition. At the end of the day, teachers have an important job guiding our students through 21st century learning opportunities.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

2 thoughts on “Constructionism, Coding and Me

  1. Great read Catherine! I really liked how you included a list of different coding websites/games teachers could show their students to play at home. I agree that as teachers, when we show these types of technological activities to our students we need to be aware of which of our students may not have access to devices such as iPads and Chromebooks outside of the school. I’m wondering if in the next few years, if new curriculums will be released at the elementary level with learning outcomes specifically aimed at coding.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Alyssa! I’m actually going to be starting coding with my students this week (starting with a workshop through the Science Centre). I am curious to see how this will translate into other subject areas – I think coding, like educational technology and digital citizenship in general, should be intertwined in the curriculum!

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