This is the fourth year I have had my students work through a basic course in coding. We have used the activities created by code.org for our practice. Last year, we did the program in the designated week and had some great volunteers help our students work their way through the coding challenges. This year, I went it on my own with my class, and I waited a week so that the students work would be saved in the system.
The code.org activities are very engaging for my students. The program is challenging, but presented in a way that is very motivating for students. Though the program appears to be self guided for kids, supervision and guidance will make the activities more understandable and lead to greater success in future coding challenges.
In the past I have had kids work through the challenges with a partner, but I took the advice of one of our volunteers in fall 2015 and had each student work on his or her own challenge. This was really important to ensure each kid really understood what they were doing and how to get to the next level. I also set up usernames for each student. The usernames and secret pictures were very easy for the students to remember and it ensured that I could see what each student had completed.
As each student passed a level, the button for that level turned green. I learned that dark green meant they passed the level with the correct number of lines of code. If the button was light green, they passed but used too many lines of code. I had the light green students go back to correct their coding, and once my students knew about the number of lines requirement, they began making sure they really passed the levels.
Motivating the students to do the work correctly was quite easy, giving them clear feedback about what was expected made them willing to go back and correct their work. Usually I would experience more requests for mercy and leniency, but with coding, the students wanted to do it correctly.
All this would be much more difficult to include in our program if we did not have Chromebooks in our classrooms for regular use. My thanks go out to our Information Technology Department in San Rafael City Schools for supporting our use of Chromebooks and to our School Board for approving the expansion of our Chromebook program.