How do I teach coding when I don't know how to code?

We're frequently asked this by teachers, and it's a tricky one. Even the word 'coding' makes it sound hard to understand, and not accessible.

We believe there are five key steps:

  1. Take a team approach to coding professional development.
  2. Build your coding knowledge in house.
  3. Don't spend money, yet.
  4. Jargon is jargon, but key ideas are straight forward.
  5. Find your tribe for ongoing support.

Code Rangers focuses on growing coding confidence in schools. We love partnering with schools and working together so that students and teachers have the best possible introduction to digital technologies.

Take a team approach to professional development

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How often has a teacher from your school been to a conference, and arrived back full of enthusiasm and new ideas, yet only a few weeks later, the energy has gone, and worse, those hand scribbled notes don't make sense.

At Code Rangers time after time we see the benefits of including all teachers in professional learning: allowing everyone in the team to access the same opportunities, and allowing the whole staff to learn together, collaborate, and implement what they have learned. It's also a great way to build your team and support each other in this new digital technologies subject, which we're all just starting out with.

Build your coding knowledge in house

The next consideration is building long term coding knowledge at your school. Yes, it's possible to carve out parts of the curriculum and ask experts to come and teach it. But where does that leave you in six, twelve, or twenty four months? Your students may be learning to code, but if the teachers aren't keeping up, how do you build your knowledge as a school?

As digital technologies moves into the NSW syllabus from 2019, a key consideration is how your school can not only teach coding, but teach it well. Embedding coding with literacy and numeracy in the heart of the classroom and building expertise yourself allows for great project based learning opportunities, STEM learning, and a great opportunity for you and your students to maximize learning time and outcomes. It’s time for coding to come out of the computer lab and take its place in the classroom.

Don’t spend money, yet

We all love shiny things. We especially love shiny things when they come with the promise of fully developed lesson plans! We’re not denying there are some great resources, activities, and devices out there. But the one thing we’ve seen over and over which breaks our hearts are big dollars spent on the latest robots, then they don’t quite live up to the promise, or a key teacher moves on, and suddenly those thousands of dollars are gathering dust in a cupboard.

Our tip? We believe dollars spent on professional learning can pay dividends far beyond money spent on hardware. There are so many free coding resources and computerless (or ‘unplugged’) activities out there, invest in teachers and learning new skills instead of hardware. Once you’re really clear on what you want to achieve in the classroom, then it’s time to look at options. We’d always recommend a device that is affordable, can be used in many different ways, can use different coding languages, and has good available online resources. One that ticks all these boxes is the micro:bit.

Jargon is jargon, but key ideas are straightforward

Getting your head around coding terminology can take a while. But if you put the curriculum into straightforward language, you’ll find so many of the ideas are well known to us already. Can you boil an egg? Then you can develop an algorithm (it’s really just a set of instructions.) Not sure about conditionals? Have you ever used an ‘if….then’ sentence? - “If it’s raining, then take an umbrella” - that’s a real world example of a conditional, and in coding it is similar - ‘If password is correct, then show account information’.  Another term you’ll encounter is ‘iteration’ - a fancy word for repeating something. Think about marking a ten word spelling test - ‘Repeat ten times - check word, if correct, draw tick, if false, draw cross.’ Once you’re familiar with these ideas, classroom coding activities are easier to design and you can create some great simple coding projects covering multiple learning outcomes with your students.

 

Find your tribe for ongoing support

Teachers are a wonderful tribe, for supporting and learning from each other. We don’t all have time to attend workshops or training, but most of us are smartphone users, and through Facebook and Twitter you can find groups and twitter chats full of other teachers looking to grow their coding confidence. It’s a great place to share, support and collaborate. Some Twitter chats to try include #PrimarySTEMChat and #AussieEd.

WIth these tips you’ll be able to navigate classroom coding. Still have questions? Contact us and we’re happy to help. Our coding professional development for teachers focuses on practical, relevant ways to get coding at school.