Little Coders program transforms learning at Mays Chapel
"I cannot believe how students are retaining the skills and how their coding fluency has skyrocketed."
- Katherine Cox, Baltimore County Public Schools
Timonium, Md. – The Maryland Society for Educational Technology (MSET) is proud to announce its March 2018 Digital Learning Showcase recipients Katherine Cox STAT teacher, at Mays Chapel Elementary School.
Cox concocted the Little Coders program, a before school activity providing students in grades one, two and three, exposure to hands on activities related to basic computer programming skills. She describes the initiative as a ‘missing link’ that is needed for younger students because most coding programs are geared towards students in higher grade-levels. The six week sessions offer opportunities for primary aged students to get hands on experience with coding in a developmentally appropriate format.
“With a focus on the logical thinking that is the foundation of coding, each week students engage in a variety of hands on activities ranging from unplugged coding, to coding with different computer and robot technologies,” Cox articulated explaining the regular routine of her weekly events. “Each session meets for one hour a week for six weeks, and activities increase in difficulty and complexity throughout the course of the session. After each session students get a Little Coders Tip of the Week sheet with typically reviews new learning from the day and provides an activity for students to share with their families at home each week.”
The numbers quickly spoke volumes to the popularity of the program. The initial advertisement and expectation was to offer 20 spots during the first session. However, the real problem was determining a lottery system for the more than 120 students that applied on the first day wanting to participate. The high demand challenged Cox to recruit additional teachers to meet the needs of the program.
In its second year, it was determined there would be a need to expand the program to include additional students and offer differentiated levels of courses. The program is now broken down into three district pathways:
Introduction Coders: This level is intended for first grade students. The goal of the intro level is for students to develop an understanding of the logical thought process at the foundation of coding. Students complete a variety of unplugged challenges and learn to code with Bee-Bots and Ozobots.
Basic Coders – Basic level is intended for students in second and third grade. These students also complete a variety of unplugged challenges and learn to code Ozobots. These students also complete the Code Studio foundational course from Code.org throughout the course of their 6 weeks. Then as a way to continue to build our program we wanted to provide an opportunity for students to continue to expand on the skills they learned in Little Coders last year.
Level Up Coders: This group is intended for students in second and 3rd grade that have completed our basic level. These students continue learning with Code.org resources in Code Studio, as well as use block coding programs to program different robot technologies like Ozobots and Spheros to complete various tasks and challenges.
“This program has allowed us to capitalize on a major interest that our students and school community have that we previously had no way to address,” Cox stated as she also spent a great deal of time promoting Hour of Code within her school. “I cannot believe how students are retaining the skills and how their coding fluency has skyrocketed. At a younger age, this is not easy. It can be frustrating working through some struggle and now they are moving towards mastery; students are learning at a different level.”
About Digital Learning Showcase MSET is taking the opportunity to highlight best practices in classroom teaching, leading, and learning with educational technology from around the state of Maryland. The goal is to spotlight innovations of members and nonmembers throughout different public and private school settings. Each month teachers, school leaders, and community members are asked to nominate individuals who support innovation and educational technology in a school setting.
MSET is non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting the improvement of the teaching-learning process through effective technology integration into all curricular areas as well as fostering and promoting excellence technology in education. MSET is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a leading international network for technology professionals.
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