Learning block coding is really fun. It’s colourful, it’s simple to use as a beginner, and it’s filled with cats and robots. It’s not difficult to enjoy your time diving into these programming environments. What can be more difficult for teachers is finding ways to apply what you’ve learned to your classroom. Particularly because curriculum documents, which are there to tell you what you must do, can be a bit dry, and rarely seem to connect with the fun you’ve just had learning to make a cat chase a ball in Scratch.
Scratch Cat chases an apple in a project created using the block coding platform Scratch.
One of KCJ’s main goals and challenges in creating meaningful professional development experiences for teachers across Canada is to develop activities and workshops that are contextually useful for educators. Essentially: can this be used in the classroom tomorrow? Is this workshop connected to the curriculum in my province? Can I use these coding activities in my social studies class? My music class? My Phys Ed class?
There are two main ways we do this. First, we do our research and ask some important questions. What are the digital skill requirements for students in this place? What’s unique about this province, region, city or town? Do students need to do specific things with coding, or are the requirements more broad? It’s vital to take the academic language from curriculum documents and make it colloquial, simple, and useful. How do these terms directly apply in block coding environments, for example? The aim is always to create engaging projects that can be accomplished by any learner (student or teacher) and expanded upon. And, further, to provide ways to incorporate the goals of the province or school board into those projects.
We worked extensively with teachers in Ontario over the past year to help unpack the language in the new provincial math curriculum which contained, for the first time, coding outcomes for each grade. It was a great and rewarding challenge to take this document, which was abstract for teachers new to coding, and make it approachable and accessible. Really, all it was asking them to do was make a cat chase a ball, albeit in slightly more complex language.
Additionally, in Quebec we’ve offered a number of trainings that build simple projects using culturally or geographically-significant figures and events, like the Winter Carnival or Sugar Shacks, all while connecting directly to the provincial Digital Literacy Outcomes.
Thank you to @KidsCoding - Erica, Susan, Maia, & Kai for guiding our teachers through coding & the new Ontario Math Curriculum. Thank you as well to our dedicated teachers who attended, asked questions, & are prepared to make coding both relevant & engaging for their students!🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/LB6Z0MYei5— Rob Cannone (@mr_robcannone) October 6, 2020
The second question we ask ourselves when developing contextually rich experiences for teachers: are the coding techniques introduced at the right level of difficulty for students to apply to their projects in this grade? Coding, of course, can be very simple - but it can get difficult very quickly. Not every application of coding into a geography project, for example, will work, because the coding will either be inappropriately simple or complex. But, when coding can be incorporated into other subjects wisely, rich new ways of communicating can be explored, and educators can engage students who otherwise might not have had an interest in certain topics.
It’s our hope to be interpreters and guides through new and old curriculum across the country, working with teachers to incorporate a wide variety of digital skills into their classrooms in a way that is useful to them, and aligns with their provincial, regional, and local context as best as possible. Over the next few months, we invite teachers to join our regional and provincial Teacher Training sessions, in which we’ll provide the basics for essential block coding platforms and then unpack ways of incorporating what we’ve learned in ways that will work for your classroom.
Click here to book a Teacher Training for your school or district.
Thanks to our sponsors, we’re able to train more teachers than ever. Over the next two years, Ubisoft Éducation will provide funding to support our in-classroom workshops and teacher training to ensure students and teachers in Quebec are supported, well equipped, and inspired to use technology.
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