So where does coding fit in the curriculum? Apart from science and technology that is.

Report writing time has just come and gone, and as a service to the teachers I work with I made a document with the links between coding and maths outcomes in the Syllabus. My comments are in green italics and describe the activities they did to meet the outcomes. In this post I deal with mathematics. In the next post I will outline a few more learning areas.

Here it is:

Outcomes: Stage 1

Mathematics

 

Working mathematically: develop understanding and fluency in mathematics through inquiry, exploring and connecting mathematical concepts, choosing and applying problem-solving skills and mathematical techniques, communication and reasoning.

 

Measurement and Geometry

Position:         MA1-16MG: Represents and describes the positions of objects in everyday situations and on maps.

  • Give and follow directions to familiar locations (ACMMG023)
    • Use the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ to describe the positions of objects in relation to themselves and from the perspective of a person facing in the opposite direction, eg ‘The ball is on her left’. Students differentiated between left and right when giving the computer commands. They also recognised that left and right will be opposite when the character is facing you.
    • Give and follow directions, including directions involving turns to the left and right, to move between familiar locations, eg within the classroom or school
      • use amounts of turn (full and half) to describe direction (Communicating)
      • give and follow instructions to position objects in models and drawings
      • give and follow simple directions using a diagram or description (Communicating)

Students communicated direction (turn left 90⁰, turn right 60⁰ etc) to move the character to a given location on the screen.

      • describe the path from one location to another on drawings
  • The class created a path from one location to another using computer software (Communicating) Term 2 focus using online coding teaching program http://www.code.org

 

Angles:           MA2-16MG: Identifies, describes, compares and classifies angles

  • Identify angles as measures of turn and compare angle sizes in everyday situations (ACMMG064). Year 2 Students were required to reorientate a character with the amount of turn E.g. turn 45⁰ left. Some students were able to identity that the angle the character was turning was an acute of obtuse angle.

 

 

Patterns and algebra

MA1-8NA: Creates, represents and continues a variety of patterns with numbers and objects.

  • recognise, copy and continue patterns with objects or symbols
  • recognise when an error occurs in a pattern and explain what is wrong (Communicating, Problem Solving). The students debugged their own work, methodically working through an algorithm to find where the wrong command had been used, then corrected it.
  • Create, record and describe patterns with objects or symbols. The students formed patterns of commands, for example ‘turn right, move forward, turn left, move forward’ and so on to move a character around a pattern of obstacles. Once a pattern could be identified, they were able to loop the first cycle of the algorithm to create a repeating pattern of movement.

Number

Multiplication and Division 2:

  • Explore the use of repeated addition to count in practical situations, e.g. create an algorithm (procedure). The students modelled repeated addition by repeating two to three commands is sequence (see patterns and algebra point 2). They progressed to using loops of commands. For example instead of using the ’move forward” command 5 times, they set up a loop so that a single ‘move forward’ command repeated 5 times.

Board of Studies statement on coding. This is a useful statement that is well worth looking at for how coding fits in the curriculum.

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Getting your kindergarten class to login II

I know I’ve written about this before, but the original post was a year ago. Since then, I’ve had a year’s worth of practice and have felt that getting my kindergarten class to login has been more successful this time around.

As a refresher, here’s an excerpt from the original post:

I remember well the term where it took so long for everyone to login that time was up, and we all had to log off again. The class was disappointed, and I was too. In myself that I couldn’t get them over the line, and also that I didn’t manage to teach anything at all.

One major challenge I have faced that can derail the most carefully planned lesson is getting your kindergarten class logged in. Without everyone logged in, it is next to impossible to teach anything at all.

 

So what have I learned since then?

  • A common problem I have is that I overestimate the abilities of my class (I’m getting better though). Just because these kids are growing up around screens and input devices and all sorts of impressive gadgets, it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Most these days have not had much experience with a mouse and don’t know how to hold it, which button to click (“Now, click on ok” means nothing to a five year old. What’s click? Where’s ok? How do I get on ok?). Swiping a touch screen on a game on Mum’s phone (that she gave you to keep you quiet while she sips her coffee in the café) doesn’t really equip you with many useful skills for using technology. These are little kids who know a lot of things, but at the same time don’t know much.
  • Slow down. This takes time. I was ready to spend a whole term (I only have each class for 1 hour a fortnight) working with the kids on this if it meant they could login within minutes for the rest of the year. Probably there will be some who think this is excessive. It was worth it.
  • Teaching the concept of logging in is just as important as sitting in front of the monitor and practicing typing it in. I have devised a fun little way of reminding everyone of their username and password before even entering the room. More to come below.

“Just get on with it” I hear you cry. Ok then.

Here’s some strategies and thoughts I have to help this process.

  • Have your cards with each child’s username on it prepared before you start.
  • Talk about the parts of the computer and how we have to login because the computer needs to know who is using it. Introduce usernames and passwords.
  • Explain how the computer needs to username and password to let you use it. Emphasise that the computer isn’t as smart as we think and that the username and password has to be exactly right for the computer to recognise us.
  • Show each child their card with their username on it, and tell them their passowrd. Here is where things diverge. In my school, everyone has the same passowrd. It has made life 1000 times easier. Yes, I know you shouldn’t do that but I didn’t make that decision. I’m glad it was made though.
  • This is the little game I devised that the kids really enjoy. It’s a great way to explain the concept of logging in and it encourages them to remember their username and password.
    • Everyone lines up outside the room. You stand in front of the door with it closed.
    • Tell the class that for each child to be let in, they have to whisper their username to you.
    • Ask the line leader his/her username (if it’s firstname.lastname then their name is fine). Then ask them to whisper their password in your ear. If you’re as tall as me your back will be letting you know enough is enough by the end of the line.
    • If he gets it right, open the door to let him in. Let them know they are supposed to go and sit on the floor quietly.
    • Shut the door and repeat with the next one, and so on.

The kids loved this game and got quite excited when it was almost their turn to whisper their name. You may be thinking that they will run amok when left to their own devices with the door closed. I was worried myself the first time I did it, but they all sat silently on the floor waiting to see who would come in next. I was surprised.

This has worked very well. All the class understood exactly what was needed to login, and the difference between this year and last year has been huge. The next step is to get them to remember where the letters of their names are on the keyboards…

 

child-192712_640

Little Oliver thought it was such fun to press all the buttons on Daddy’s laptop while his thesis was open.

Typing – probably the most useful skill you can teach.

I can honestly say that learning how type properly (sorry, two finger typing is not proper typing) is the most useful skill I learned in my teens that I took and used in adulthood. To this end, think that it is vital that we teach children correct typing skills from an early age.

Today I started teaching  my kindergarten class basic typing skills. Here are a few things to bear in mind before tackling this.

  • Kindergarten kids are still developing their fine motor skills. They are still learning to hold a pencil properly, and some may find that placing the correct finger on the correct key difficult.
  • Any typing they do a the moment is almost guaranteed to be the “index finger on the right hand (or left if they are left handed) does all the typing” variety of typing. They will want to revert to this all the time.

Here is how I taught the lesson:

  • I thought that it would be a good idea to really focus on the keyboard without on screen distractions, so I decided to make some of the lesson unplugged.
  • Firstly, I unplugged enough keyboards from the computers so that every child in the class had one.
  • Each child sat on the floor with a keyboar
  • I asked the class to look carefully at the F key. What made it different from the other letter keys, apart from the letter? The class observed that it had alittle bump on it.
  • I asked the same about the J key. I told the class that we use our index fingers to press these keys that are called home keys. We practised resting our index fingers on the keys and pressing them.
    • You need to check everyone at this point. a few will put their right index finger on the J key, then on the F and not one finger for each key.
  • So far so good. Everyone understood and quite liked clacking away on the keys.
  • I then played them the first part of this little animation, which is quite go at quickly explaining the other keys that sit under the fingers. It’s a good time to play it as I’ve already been doing most of the talking (and even I get sick of my voice).
  • We then discussed how there should be one finger on each key. They noted that the rude fingers (the one you flip the bird with) go on D and K. If you have a way of holding this finger up to show it’s the one you use without it looking rude, I’d love to know. Maybe point it downwards instead of up.
  • We went through each finger on each hand and the corresponding key
  • We then tried placing our fingers on the correct keys all at the same time. You need to watch and correct again – you’ll see some very interesting finger origami as some attempt to defy the limits of their finger joints.
  • Finally, using one finger at a time, we pressed each key with the correct finger. Quite a few reverted back to pecking each one with their index finger, so I encouraged them to have a go at using all their fingers.
  • We then played the rest of the animation. Everyone was still sitting on the floor and thought they were typing the key when prompted. I was discretely typing it from my keyboard. They thought it was great!

To cut a long story short, the class then went to a computer with a keyboard still attached and logged in. I employed the strategies from here and it worked quite wll. I got everyone on to the same little animation and they all had a go by themselves in the time we had left.

I really would like to have them type in to a word doc so they get more of a sense of typing. I could call out letters and they attempt to type them with correct finger starting with F and J but it would take a whole lesson to get them logged on, Word opened and then typing. We didn’t have that opportunity today. Maybe next time.

It’s official. We need to teach coding.

Well not official, but when a business leader says that computer coding, computational thinking and design need to be taught alongside traditional subjects to prepare your children for the future, it may be the first step in making it part of the school curriculum.

Catherine Livingstone, national president of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) spoke at the National Press Club stated this and more. A lot we already knew – a lot of jobs won’t exist in the future. In his famous TED speech, Ken Livingstone astutely stated that we are preparing children for jobs we haven’t even imagined yet, and I think he’s dead right. Livingstone also cautioned that Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in digital literacy. I wonder if she has seen the new Australian Curriculum and its new outcomes addressing this. Whether it is enough, time will tell.

We may not be able to teach our youth the specific manual skills required for jobs of the future, but we can teach them to think. Think in a way to persevere at solving a problem. Think about how things work and how they can be improved, and to be engaged enough in their surrounds to want to do something about improving them for all. A child with these thinking skills will have the capacity to adapt to and learn what they need to make a worthwhile contribution in the jobs of the future.

Livingstone stated that “Australians must move away from the notion that work is something begun after a long period of study to a system where it is integrated with learning”.

We already have that system. It’s called apprenticeships and TAFE.

Young guy, old beige keyboard. They will soon have a 90s retro computing vibe, or even earlier 80s Commodore 64 vibe.

Young guy, old beige keyboard. They will soon have a 90s retro computing vibe, or even earlier 80s Commodore 64 vibe.

News article from:

Janda, M. (2015, April 28). Welders not lawyers: Business Council warns Australia needs to prepare for future jobs. Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-29/business-council-warns-australia-needs-to-prepare-for-future-jo/6430456?section=business

What I’m teaching this term and how.

This term I am teaching coding to the year 1 and 2 classes, and will be focusing on the basics with the Kindergarten classes (this could be a whole blog in itself). My inspiration to teach coding came from a teacher at another school who had written a program based on the Scratch platform from the MIT. I saw the myriad of teaching possibilities and opportunities to integrate computer science with other Key Learning Areas.

Coding and programming integrates many mathematical concepts, such as position, patterns (recognising and continuing patterns) and is fantastic for developing logical thinking, problem solving and mathematical thinking. In addition, coding can develop literacy skills. After all, a computer program is simply a list of instructions for the computer right? In other words, a text type known as a procedure.

This term I am teaching coding using the www.code.org website and plans. I have found it a comprehensive and well sequenced programs many resources provided for teachers. The lesson plans are quite good. Although comprehensive, they read almost like a script for a lesson. I would find it much better if they had also had a summary consisting of key points, the key words you need to teach and how the activities will get the key points across.

Visually, code.org is very attractive and engaging for the kids that I have used it with so far. It uses a block system of constructing code. Each piece of code snaps in to place (like Lego) to build a sequence of commands. IN the pic below, you can see the coding options available on the left, and the algorithm being created on the right. When I run this little algorithm, whatever is being programmed would move forward twice, then stop.

code blocks

On the left are the commands available for use, and how they fit together to piece together a a string of code is on the right.

Straight away you can see how this is a good strategy for teaching the mathematical concept of positional awareness – coders need to be aware that the object being programmed has to be oriented in the right direction before moving forward. This took a little while for some of my junior coders to comprehend. I found that standing in front of them and getting them to give me the commands while I followed them worked very well. After sending me in to desks and chairs, or wondering why I didn’t move when they said “Go right” instead of “turn right, move forward”.

This is also useful for teaching pattern generation and recognition. For example, if the commands “move forward, turn right, move forward, turn right” have been coded, what commands will continue the pattern?

In addition, time and sequence is embedded in the coding process. Junior coders develop an understanding of sequencing events – what happens before and after X event?

These are some of the concepts inherent in the teaching and learning of coding. I will touch on more in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading!