One of my goals this year is to integrate more technology into my classroom instruction. With the inspiration of @EdCampNOC, @JustTechIt, and Google CS-First, my class and I started coding.
It started when I accidentally stumbled into @Teachusingtech's session at @CSUF. I thought I was going to learn about Google Hangouts, but left eager to code. Once Pablo opened the session up for questions, Jessica suggested teachers new to coding try Google CS-First. She claimed that it was a perfect launching-off point. And she was right!!!
Once I got back to school, I logged onto http://www.cs-first.com/. The process of signing up for our first module, Storytelling, was fast and easy. Within three weeks, our kit arrived. The plan was to implement the 8 lessons between the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas during our Science block.
The modules are designed to be used by after-school programs, summer sessions, or during traditional class time. The teacher's guide provides a step-by-step list of instructions for implementation. (Perfect for a novice like me.) The kit also has passports for each student as well as badges for students to earn after each lesson is complete. To complete an hour-long lesson, students watch short instructional videos, code for 15 to 30 minutes, and close with a survey.
Before our first session started, I announced to our 6th grade class that we would need some "gurus" to be our coding experts. Five students wrote resumes stating why they were qualified to be a guru. All were selected. They were allowed to forge ahead and preview lessons before the rest of the class. But their most important job was to assist fellow classmates that needed tech support.
Well, it was time for our first session. With chromebooks on their desks, ear buds and head sets at the ready, passports filled out, we were ready to start. I invited our technology coordinator, @aromayorjr, to attend, just in case. But you know what? I did pretty well on my own. Phew!!! The process of getting started included going to the website, signing up as a student, and punching in the unique access code given to the teacher. Within minutes, students were in. They watched an introductory video then started their first lesson.
The coding program used is Scratch. It worked perfectly on the chromebooks. Students learned to drag and drop with ease. The storytelling unit included lessons on setting, characters, and dialogue. Students coded their sprites to jump, roll, and even dance. As the lessons evolved, students created story lines, character interactions with dialogue, and music and sound effects to enhance the scene.
The CS-First goals for the club are to "increase confidence, instill courage, grow perseverance, provide a sense of belonging, and demonstrate the impact that computer science has on careers and communities." As a teacher invested in students, the CS-First Coding Club accomplished all of their goals and more. I particularly admired how my students were eager to collaborate with each other. You could hear suggestions being exchanged, compliments being made, and hearty laughs as students admired each other's work.
I have to say, it was a great learning experience for all us. But don't just take it from me, let's take a look at some of the student survey comments.
* "If you are not very good, don't give up. Just get help from a guru and you will be all right. It is a very fun experience."
* "I learned how to code dialogue and learned some other things too. I solved them by testing things out, then at the end, I solved most of my problems."
* "I think computer science is not a way of making or fixing problems but learning to dodge them and get so good you almost never have problems in your code. It's the beauty of it!"
* "People should learn computer science because it's a fun way to learn new things on a computer. It can also help some people with their career choice, for an example, maybe after doing this lesson you might want to be an engineer, or maybe a video game designer. Computer science is amazing and more people should try it."
As to be expected, we're ready for more. Other modules available are Fashion and Design, Art, Friends, Social Media, Sports, Music and Sound, Game Design, and Animation. During our next CS session, the class voted to work on either Music and Sound or Game Design. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to monitor two different modules concurrently.
Getting more techie,