Since October 2014, I’ve been slowly introducing my students (first-eight grade) to coding. I got the idea from my dissertation research with iPads in the classroom. A lot of the articles I came across had to do with the importance of kids to learn coding from a young age. However, it wasn’t until I watched a Ted Talk by Alex Klein “Codes We Live By“, did I realize that even though it’s been almost 20 years since I learned coding that I could teach my students the basics of coding.
I began introducing my first graders to coding through an app called ScratchJr. ScratchJr is based on Scratch a popular coding application made by MIT. The biggest advantage of ScratchJr. is that it’s an app for the iPad. We have a class set of iPads so it made a lot more sense to start with ScratchJr. Through the month of November I followed the curriculum created by the ScratchJr. team. My first graders spent about 30-45 minutes a week practicing their coding skills. I was very surprised how quickly they were able to understand how the app worked and how easily they were able to complete the daily challenges I laid out for them. As a final project students created a short story about bullying, which was based on the storybook we were reading at the time.
Hopscotch and Gamepress
Choosing a program for my upper elementary students was a little more difficult. There are several apps for the iPad for upper elementary and middle school students. I decided on Hopscotch for a few reasons. First, it was highly recommend by Richard Wells (@ipadwells) and Paul Hamilton (Paul_hamilton). Both of these gentlemen have worked very hard to share their experiences and ideas for coding in the classroom. Second, Hopscotch is easy to pick up and learn but difficult to master. Once I showed the students the basics, they were teaching me by the end of the first week! Finally, the team at Hopscotch are very supportive. I’ve emailed them several times with questions and they were quick to respond.
For my middle school students and advanced elementary students, I gave them a choice between Hopscotch and Gamepress. Most of my middle school students chose Gamepress because of the interface. However, some switched to Hopscotch because it was difficult for them to figure out how to create different options for their games. The students who stayed with Gamepress did a great job of supporting each other through the process of creating a game.
Each week students are required to write about the game in Google Docs. This gives them a chance to practice their writing skills, as well as, reflect on their game design. In addition, each students chose a Ted Talk based on video games or coding. After writing a summary of the Ted Talk, students searched for more information about the main idea of the talk. For example, one student watched Daphne Bavelier’s “Your Brain on Video Games.” He learned about how Dr. Bavelier’s team discovered that playing action games improved your eyesight. From there, he found more information to support Dr. Bavelier’s argument. This was also a great way for me to teach my students how to write paragraphs using the MEAL Plan .
For my younger students they learned more about video games through essay writing. Students wrote persuasive essays on the positive and negative aspects of playing video games. My students were surprised to learn that there were a lot of benefits to playing video games. Most of them were excited to share this new information with their parents.
The final part of our Video Game Project will be the showcase of the games. My initial plan is for students to screencast their games and create voice-overs in iMovie.
Our goal is to finish our games and blogs by the end of February! I will update the this post when the first blogs are completed!