How do you teach coding without a computer?

beebot_1Coding with four year olds is a hot trend these days [1]http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/do-we-really-need-to-learn-to-code[2]http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/tech-rivals-lay-down-arms-for-youth-coding/?_r=2. But as parents rush to enroll their children in programming camps and classes, they face growing research to reduce screen time. Yes, life has changed, yet not the rules that guide us. Screens should not replace reading, reading aloud, or play. Children benefit from hands on activity more than passive consumption with a screen. The research is so overwhelming that HKIS has a “no screen time” and “limited screen time” policy for R1 and R2 students respectively[3]http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952.

So why do we teach coding and how do we teach it if we can’t use screens in R1?
The WHY – To move beyond preparation for literacy in our ever-evolving digital world, teaching coding immerses our students in real world problem solving, algorithmic thinking, sequential logic and maybe most of all, the persistence and resilience to test and learn from m
istakes. Children take these skills beyond the screen too and apply them in their daily actions.

beebot_2The HOW – By focusing on thinking—and not coding — teachers introduce conceptual basics through hands on play with Bee-Bots, a programmable robot. Students interact with the Bee-bot by using direction buttons to create sequence of movements (see below). Students draw on their higher order thinking skills, plan, evaluate, and analyse, to maneuver the Bee-bot around obstacles and through mazes.  Navigating these complex paths, students think to create a set of processes and problem solve their way to their first algorithm.  Mistakes? They add to the learning process. Bee-bots allow students to learn from their actions in order to reach a higher level of understanding.

beebot_3This week in R1, Lower Primary Tech Coach Mary Liao brings the coding world back to traditional play. By helping students to grasp the basic concepts first in R1 and R2, students are more primed and ready to code with Scratch Junior, MIT’s programming language, in Grades 1 and 2 and with Scratch in Grades 3 to 4.

Young or old, anybody can learn to code. And it’s never too late to start. Take the challenge yourself at Code.org and experience coding for yourself!

 

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/do-we-really-need-to-learn-to-code
2. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/tech-rivals-lay-down-arms-for-youth-coding/?_r=2
3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952

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