This week is Computer Science Education Week so we wanted to share with you some of our favourite coding tools. We hope you’ll sign up for Hour of Code and try out an hour of programming activities with your students!
Before we get into our list of coding tools, I want you to know that, when I teach coding, I usually begin with an “unplugged coding” activity. This is an activity that requires no technology, but teaches students the concepts and skills needed for coding. I like to start this way to ensure students have an understanding of what coding is and how to “think like a programmer” before we start coding online.
I also want you to know why I think teaching coding is valuable. I’m not suggesting that we should be developing programming skills in our K-12 learners so that they can all go on to study computer science and become professional programmers. However, I do believe that learning to code can foster the development of important skills, which will serve students well both now and in the future. When students engage in coding activities, they are learning to think critically, problem solve and, often, collaborate. They are often required to persist and make several attempts at a task. I also like that students get to learn a bit about how technology works and have the opportunity to create with technology.
So, with those two important points in mind, here are 5 of our favourite coding tools:
We’ve both spent a number of years teaching young learners and we love that this tool is accessible for non-readers. K-5 students will have fun learning to program “The Fuzz”, an adorable character which students can program using left, right, up and down commands. The content is organized into levels. The coding challenges increase in complexity, so students can learn about conditions, loops and functions as they progress. Sign up for a free educator account at https://www.kodable.com/ to get started and consider purchasing additional content if you want more!
This is another great option for early years, since it does not require reading. Students use block-based coding to program fun characters (called Foos) to move, jump and overcome obstacles. Students will work through a series of levels, which increase in complexity and introduce coding concepts such as loops. I like this option for K-6 students. Teachers can sign up for free at https://codespark.com/ and set up student accounts.
Code.org offers a huge number of coding activities. There are one-hour tutorials for a variety of ages. They also offer multi-lesson courses which can be completed throughout the semester or throughout the year. I really like their Express Course for middle years and high school students. Check out their course offerings here or browse the Hour of Code one-hour tutorials here.
This free app is a great tool for early years students to use for programming. Students use block-based coding to program characters and objects. The app is open-ended, giving students the opportunity to create any project they wish to design. The variety of characters and backgrounds available make it a great choice for storytelling with programming. If you need some suggestions for getting started, check out their learning activities here: https://www.scratchjr.org/teach/activities
Scratch, the “sister” site to Scratch Jr is suitable for middle years and high school students. This tool is free and offers so many options for programming characters, backgrounds and objects. Much like Scratch Jr, it is open-ended so students can program anything they wish. Students can create an account to save their programs and continue building on them. If students need some ideas for getting started, check out the Scratch ideas page here: https://scratch.mit.edu/ideas
If you try out one of these tools with your students, we’d love to hear from you! Send us a message and tell us what you tried!