Excellent free self paced coding course for teachers and students

If you are a teacher required to, or keen to teach your students how to code but have no idea where to start, fear not.

The Catholic Education Office Ballarat has created a self paced course for teachers and students designed to run between 7 - 12 weeks.  And it's all completely free. 

It offers a mixture of plugged, and unplugged sessions and even a robotics module.  Students in grades 3 - 6 can learn everything around coding and algorithms in a structured, engaging and logical manner.

Absolutely everything you need is here, including tutorial videos, resources, assessment tasks and even links to the Victorian curriculum. 

The course can be found here and is highly recommended.

bit.ly/ceocoding

 

Kevin Cummins

ICT Consultant with over 60 schools in Victoria Australia. Google Certified Teacher, Masters of I.T Education and above all else husband and dad.

5 S.TE.M gifts for coders, makers and computational thinkers

With only a few weeks until Christmas many parents may not realise they have a budding Henry Ford in the making who just needs a spark to light a fire to ignite ingenuity and creativity.

Today, we are going look at five gifts that offer your kids to problem solve, code, identify patterns and create algorithms to solve programs.  Whilst I am writing about these at Christmas they would obviously also be great STEM resources for the classroom.

I had one of these Electronic Kits as a boy and I learnt so much about how electronic circuits work and what different components can do.  So much to do here for under $50.00 and they are very durable.  Whilst there are clear instructions to follow it also offers much in the way of problem solving and algorithmic design.

Laser maze encourages kids to think and act sequentially to solve and avoid problems.  Plenty of logic required to compete and it even uses real lasers.  

Okay, I know this one is a pricey option but it clearly ticks every box for quality of product, educational value and awesome fun.  Build an incredible robot using the worlds most proven and versatile toy.  Command your robot by either coding the inbuilt computer which is incredibly versatile or just use the remote control.   Then when you are finished use your imagination to create a robot or machine only limited by your imagination.  These sets are hugely popular in schools and are already highly credentialed for educational value alone.

Camelot Jr.
$26.40

Basic building blocks are great, but this wooden-block puzzle game helps build even more skills for your budding engineer or architect. It includes 48 interesting challenges at four different skill levels, all with the goal of connecting the prince and princess by building stairs, bridges, and towers according to the "blueprint" laid out in the challenge book.

No, it isn't Wall-E or an expensive super LEGO robot but ReCon is a great little programming rover that uses all the common commands and of real coders.  Easy to pick up, very versatile and won't break the bank.

So there are five options to consider in this space.  If you have any other suggestions please leave us a comment.

5 great sites to get your head around computational thinking

This eBook is a great starting point for teachers looking to get started with computational thinking, coding and robotics. Click image to access.

This eBook is a great starting point for teachers looking to get started with computational thinking, coding and robotics. Click image to access.

This year I have been doing a great deal of research around understanding computational thinking, coding and robotics as it becomes a mandatory element of the Australian Curriculum in 2017.

I really feel this to be a huge step in the right direction for our students as Australia's economy is currently built upon unsustainable mining practices which leaves our best and brightest to head overseas as to pursue successful careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Throughout this process I have struggled at times to find some worthwhile resources for teachers but at the same time uncovered a few diamonds among the rough that I highly recommend.  They are as follows.

Teaching London Computing - Has some fun activities for teachers to pick up and run with straight away that effectively reinforce the concepts of computational thinking and computer science to the average Joe.  Regulatory updated also.

CSER Digital Technologies MOOC.  - This is by far and away the most concise resource I have encountered.  A completely free unit from the University of Adelaide with hundreds of participants sharing ideas and insights.  It will take you a few weeks to get through but incredibly thorough.  It is aimed at an Aussie audience but is by far and away the best I have encountered globally.

CS Unplugged - Tim Bell has put together an incredible collection of activities for budding computer scientists and computational thinkers.  Just one catch though.  You don't use a computer to do any of them which I love.  Excellent for those who are a little scared by screens and keyboards.

Computational Thinking for Educators - Google's free mini course on computational thinking  is short but sweet.  In theory you could polish this off in a few hours but there is much to explore and flesh out beyond that.  A great starting point. 

Code.org - Whilst code.org is probably the largest of all of these resources and definitely a must visit for any budding teacher or student looking for ideas in this space it's purpose is a little less defined than all the others on this list.  Or at least I felt so.  Certainly heaps here for coders in particular but go in with an end goal.

If you are aware of any others I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Are you signing up for Google's Computational Thinking course for Educators?

Google are going all in on coding and computer science in an effort to improve the learning opportunities for teachers and students.  

On July 15 they will begin running a free course for educators to train them in how to use 'computational thinking.' in the classroom.  The course is open to all educators and there is a set time frame allocated to complete the course.

I have enrolled and would encourage others to do the same.  The course will be broken into five different modules exploring 

  • Introducing  Computational Thinking

  • Exploring Algorithms

  • Finding Patterns

  • Developing Algorithms

  • Applying Computational Thinking

The Computational Thinking for Educators course runs with support from Google teaching assistants, content experts, and other students responding to questions in the G+ Community from July 15 through September 30, 2015 and can be completed at your own pace during this time. The course consists of text lessons, supplemental videos, activities, and a hands-on final project.  You can access the course here.

iOS Apps on the iPad to support Coding and Robotics

A must see resource for coding and robotics in the classroom.

A must see resource for coding and robotics in the classroom.

The iPad is a great tool for coding.  Particularly for developing the skills and concepts in the junior years around directional language, understanding sprites and developing the building blocks of coding before moving onto traditional desktop coding software.

Here is a list of great apps on the iPad to assist coding and robotics in the classroom.  If you would like to learn a great deal more about coding and robotics in the classroom I an strongly recommend getting a copy of this excellent eBook.

Hopscotch   A visual programming tool for year 3 - 7 Students

Tynker Edu  Video game and puzzle creation tool for year 5 - 9 students

ScratchJr A visual programming tool for juniors for P - 2 Students

My Robot Friend A Problem Solving and Logic Skills Game for P - 6 Students

Codeacademy Code Hour Learn how to build things through coding. Various ability and challenge forTeachers / Students

The Foos Learn to code for an hour game forP - 2 students

Treehouse:  Learn Programming and Design Various resources to learn coding and design for Year 7 - 12 Students

Move the Turtle A variation on the classic BASIC programming skills from the 80’s for year 3 - 5 Students

Kodable A game introducing coding and problem solving skills for year P - 2 Students

Cato’s Hike a programming and logic odyssey. A friendly game for juniors intended to introduce coding and logic for year P - 4 Students.

Codea Kind of like Garage band for Coding.  More complex than anything else here but more rewarding and great tutorials and support for year 5 - 12 Students

Gamepress  Great tool for video game creation on the iPad.  Share your creations with peers also for year 5 - 9 students

Hyperpad Built on Gamepress platform but you need to create everything yourself.  You can actually export apps to iTunes store from Hyperpad.  Quite open ended. for year 7 - 12 students

Teach your students about coding and algorithms without a computer

To make a computer act like a human such as a robot, first we need to teach humans to think like a computer.  

Strangely enough this process does not, and and in some cases should not involve a computer.

CSunplugged is an excellent resource for teachers and students which is completely free and teaches students about computational thinking through a series of hands on activities.  

CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities teaching Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

The activities introduce students to Computational Thinking through concepts such as binary numbersalgorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details of having to use computers. Importantly, no programming is required to engage with these ideas!

CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from elementary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over twenty years and should not be missed if you are considering teaching robotics or coding with your students.

ScratchJr finally brings programming for juniors to the iPad

In many new national curriculum's around the world coding is being viewed as a new form of literacy as we try to entice kids to become tech creators and not simply tech consumers.

Scratch Jr is the little brother to the very popular Scratch that was released nearly a decade ago by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or (MIT).  Scratch revolutionized coding for kids as it changed lines of irrelevant syntax with variable jigsaw pieces that could be manipulated by students with far more simplicity and success.

Scratch has never worked on the iPad unfortunately and there have been numerous forums discussing the potential of making it happen.

So ScratchJr is now available on the iPad and it is targeted at students aged 5 - 7 years old.  It is free.

As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with computers, not just to interact with it. In the process, kid's learn to solve problems and design projects, and they develop sequencing skills that are foundational for later academic success. They also use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

ScratchJr is somewhat limited in what it can do in comparison to Scratch but then again it's also aimed at a younger audience. 

Younger students have no trouble picking up the concepts and the basic skills behind ScratchJr but you will really need to reinforce to them what they are doing with it or else it might just come off as a poor man's animation tool for the iPad.

If student understand they are in fact controlling a computer much like video game makers do they will value the process far more.

ScratchJr is available on iTunes now with Android coming soon.