Guest Post: Our Coding Journey – The Beginnings

This guest post comes from Miss Briony Marks who has guest posted here before with her work in maths. Today it is her story of working with Year 7 students in our Preparatory School, introducing them to the basics of coding. You can see the original post here.

One of my goals for this year was to learn something (anything!) about the world of coding and how teaching coding in schools can benefit students.

January came and I started with trepidation and a sense of awe as I scoured the Internet looking for ideas and where to begin. I was utterly overwhelmed by the amount of information available. I want to share this journey with you in the hope that it will help others along their way!

I’ve been working with a Year 7 class who had no prior experience with coding. I’m hoping to survey and interview them about their experiences towards the end of this term.

Where we began:

I began with the students in the same place that I started as a teacher; looking for information on the benefits of coding and why we should be encouraging students to learn how to code.

I found myself reading guest articles by Chris Betcher (@betchaboy) on Splash ABC,  “More than a game; why coding will help kids for life” was just what I was looking for.

I copied the article onto our OneNote Content Library and asked students to read and highlight key information.

The article was in our content library ready for students to copy across and annotate.

The article was in our content library ready for students to copy across and annotate.

Students then worked in pairs to discuss the article, ultimately posting three reasons why we should code onto our Collaboration Space, this was a great exercise in using OneNote to work collaboratively and to share ideas as well as encouraging students to see the benefits in coding.

Our shared space (again experiencing a few syncing errors)

Our shared space (again experiencing a few syncing errors)

Students were able to identify benefits such as:

  1. Kids should code because they would like to see what happens when you are doing something on the computer.
  2. kids should code because it is a new experience for them.
  3. kids should code because they need to know what do when they don’t know what to do.
  1. Learning to think the computer way can help solve other problems, whether it be Maths or English.
  2. To learn on different websites like Scratch, and without noticing, go through failure repetitively to find the solution.
  3. Not just to develop understanding of coding, but to help students see the big opportunities open to them.

Other students identified being able to get jobs in the IT Industry as a key factor, being able to write your own apps, create websites or blogs.

Despite this shared knowledge the students were still asking me “what is code?” and “what does it mean?”. They had been told what the benefits of coding were without knowing what it really was (other than it was to do with computers!).

To tackle this question I used a PE lesson. I was still a little wary of where to begin with computers so was grateful for the opportunity to delay the inevitable!

I wanted to show them that coding was essentially a series of very specific commands so we set up obstacle courses. Armed with stacks of cones and hurdles and a box full of blindfolds we constructed two obstacle courses. Students had to come up with a list of commands to navigate a blindfolded partner through the maze. The blindfolded partner could not think or act for themselves. They had to be told exactly what to do.

The results were great – students were highly engaged and were frustrated when their sequence of commands weren’t interpreted as hoped! We had started to test and re-write our code and there wasn’t a computer in sight.

Even now as we make our projects in Scratch I remind the students of this experience and how important it is to have an eye on a goal and to write clear, specific instructions as to how to get there.

A great post from Miss Marks and we will certainly post updates about how the students are getting on with their programming challenge.

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