The purpose of this chapter is to align research that surrounds the implementation of coding education or “coding literacy” in K-12 schools and the emergence of the accompanying devices, applications and various learning tools that support coding. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), is a major focus for North American education in an effort to prepare students for a 21st century job market (Becker, 2016). Industries are recognizing a gap within their departments, as they need the next generation of engineers, scientists and computer programmers available for innovations. Our society has become more technical, not just in devices and applications, but through our everyday life, as it becomes more mechanized (Pringle, 2016). The number of jobs and professions that are dependent on computer programming skills, like coding, was nearly one million in 2012, and that number is expected to triple by 2020 (Orsini, 2013). Coding promotes, for both K-12 students and teachers, an understanding of how computers interact with human-construct devices, movies, digital applications or games, and even physical stories, are developed and producedthrough code (Crockette, W.L., 2014). How teachers and students learn about technology and learn through the technology is different for each learner, as the personal connection we make and experiences we have are all unique (Fullan, M., 2013). This chapter looks to provide an overview about the essence of why“coding” is taking over K-12 education, but also how it is being implemented in the schools and why connectivism, socially creating new knowledge and discovering solutions (Siemens, G., 2005), is the most effective pedagogy from a K-12 teacher perspective.
Keywords: teacher education, professional learning, emerging technologies, 21st century pedagogy.
Teacher education related to coding literacy and other 21st century educational technologies is a newly expanding and under-researched area, as the approaches for coding pedagogy in the schools is constantly evolving (Becker, A., 2016). A standardized professional learning program for K-12 teachers related to coding literacy would be beneficial, ensuring that students across Ontario receive consistent messages and instruction related to coding in their classrooms. Critical research into the computer science industry and the types of pedagogical strategies they are applying proves helpful. A teaching model needs to be developed for teachers responsible for teaching coding in the schools (Pringle, R. 2016). In order to comply with Ontario Ministry of Education directives and technology initiatives for September 2018, coding is now being integrated into all facets of K-12 education, from mathematics to history to music class (Ministry of Education, 2017).Minzie Hunter, Ontario’s Minister of Education, believes that equipping students with global competencies like coding, prepare them for success in all stages of their lives (Ministry of Education, 2016).
The most recent issues of The Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition (Becker, A., 2016) shows that learning about and through 21st century educational tools, is very engaging for not only students, but educators also. Changes and plans for redesigning learning spaces and rethinking how schools work, are being influenced by technologies with virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics, with the driving force of it all being “coding” (Becker, A., 2016, PG. 10). Coding is a programming language understood by computerized devices or machines and is the process in which information is laid out, so that technology can act. As explained by Coding for Kids (2015), a resource website to support computer literacy, code is the language that computers understand, people program that information, telling computer-controlled devices what to do, hopefully assisting humans in the achievement of daily tasks (Pringle, R., 2016; Coding for Kids., 2015; Crockette, W.L., 2014). The curriculum connections being made by students, while coding programs or sequencing digital information, greatly exceeds the current grade level government expectations (Randbeeck, W., 2016).
Education systems are starting to see the benefits of captivating students and developing them into expert leaders within the places they explore online (Randbeeck, W., 2016). As explained in the Horizon Report (2016) the ‘shift’ in learning is happening around the world, as more institutes implement 3D printing, coding and robotic programs into schools, as a means to develop and grow 21st century leaders. This vision is shared with the Ontario Ministry of Education (2017) as they continue exploring and expanding these trends in local schools, in order to prepare students for the real world (Ministry of Education, 2016). Students need to see the value and understand how to explore software(s), digital devices and online tools today, to build digital skills and competencies, and to support this leading trend in education, together and through collaboration (Becker, A., 2016., Straub, E., 2009) as it promotes deeper comprehension and grows the perspective of what is capable within the subject area (Siemens, G, 2005). The challenge for educators now is about embracing students in environments and with content that they find interesting and relatable, taking them from the consumers, to the creators of these spaces (Porter, J., 2016).
Where Do We Start?
A critical look intoScratch.mit.edu and Code.org, industry leaders in computer science education for K-12 students needs to occur, as it justifies how millions of students are coding in classrooms across Ontario. The two emerging leaders; Scratch.mit.edu and Code.org, both are able to showcase a desired pedagogy for educators in North America today. These websites are both funded and operated by leading organizations and global inspirational leaders, one being the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. They are used to support the “Genius Hour” or “Hour of Code”, a North American education initiative to get students coding, that has been initiated and publicly acknowledged by nearly every school in Ontario (Pringle, R. 2016). The potential for pedagogy that surrounds instruction in the way these educational sites offer it is a great starting point for Ontario teachers. With 550,000 registered teachers on Scratch.mit.edu and over twenty million students active between both Scratch.mit andCode.org, additionally have nearly 30 million coding projects shared to date, with thousands of embedded curriculum connections across the world. Scratch.mit.edu and Code.org are essentially online educational software platforms that package both teachers and student resources, as well as provide a digital space to practice coding literacy in. The vision of what both these websites hope to do for student’s around the world is provide a collaborative and critical thinking platform, engaging students in games, stories and with animations they can relate with (Scratch.mit., 2016). This is something teachers themselves need to utilize and grow with as it would prove extremely helpful during the profession learning of coding.
Scratch.mit and Code.org both introduce coding to student through means of engaging interaction and relating to domains they enjoy, such as hit TV shows, movies, and leading video games (Scratch, n.d.). As teachers, we do need to remain cautious of requiring students to become ‘gamified’ or develop game products through code, if the learner does not see the value; it can have detrimental effects (Randbeeck, W., 2016). Educators need to embrace these changes in the classroom dynamics and try to promote the relevance to curriculum studies and also real-world application. The Horizon Report (2016) describes several barriers impeding technology adoption in K-12 education. Difficulty in understanding how authentic learning experiences can be fostered in diverse classrooms, and also challenges surrounding the teacher role can be solved, as a more student-centered and collaborative peer learning processes are developed (Becker, A., 2016, Straub, E., 2009). When looking at connecting teachers and students with online resources, concerns about the changing nature of online places in which we connect for information (Ananiadou, K., 2009). As educators we must review, prepare and acquire numerous resources, sometimes given out within online parameters, which will empower students to explore or self-direct their learning (Straub, E., 2009).
Professional Learning Evolution
Online programs and self-educate coding software, such as Scratch.mit and Code.org, provide solutions to ongoing educational issues like access and equality for all students in the classroom (Crockette, W.L., 2014). Proposing a Connectivism pedagogy, to support coding literacy in schools, allows for learning to happen between a variety of connected learners, sharing experiences and products through social digital spaces (Siemens, G., 2005). According to Siemens (2005), Connectivism relates to knowledge construction beyond individual contributions of the participants in the knowledge building and by nature is fluid and constantly changing. Students and teachers alike are learning through online platforms (Microsoft Cloud, Google Classroom, Desire2Learn), and communicating through these platforms via social media (SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube) (Becker, A., 2016). Scratch.mit and Code.org provide immersive learning management systems, which are built off the foundation of students interests within enjoyable familiar settings. They both allow for the social interactions of pre-created and user created games, all of which are played and built by coding new information (Scratch, n.d.). If this is how students are learning to understand computer-science and becoming familiar with various coding languages, we as educators and drivers of innovation need to be well versed also (Fullan, M., 2013).
Conclusions and Future Recommendations
The ability to navigate in the 21stcentury, a world and future of evolving industries, constantly changing, reimaging what is possible, relies on computer coding skillsets (Crockette, W.L., 2013). Whether you are an educator needing to engage students, an education administrator, or a student looking to flourish, individuals require an accessible and relevant classroom strategy to apply coding literacies with. The notion of connectivism (Siemens, G., 2004), can allow teachers to open student’s minds to the application of coding in the real world. By providing opportunities to socially research, collaborate and build new findings, grow understanding and broadcast it to others, this is the kind of inquiry students need, but also teachers (Straub, E., 2009). This concept is being explored to provide new ways to educate teachers, based on the current foundational knowledge and online community concepts, which are already in place, allowing teachers to develop personal skillsets and form unique experiences within coding. This chapter provided background into the current state of K-12 teacher learning opportunities, with respect to schools as well as government measures, and came to understand what direction leading computer science companies are doing within the education sectors. Scratch.mit and Code.org showcase opportunities that enhance competency with 21stcentury pedagogy, specifically coding, while working with current educational apps and present school infrastructure constraints. By adopting these proposed concepts we can provide better opportunities, improving current teacher education, growing coding literacy in the schools.
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Appendix A: Supporting Resources For Educators
What is Scratch?
Please use the following URL to access the “About” section of Scratch.mit.edu
This entire section is beneficial for educators and students, as you introduce coding and understand the essence of why it is important, useful and vital for the economies success. Videos, resources and of course the coding software is all FREE and can be found at the URL below.
Curriculum Connections and Lesson Ideas
Instead of providing .docs with supporting detail on how to implement coding in K-12, accessing www.digitaladapt.ca has numerous documents that can assist educators in the classroom to explore coding and connect it with the Ontario curriculum expectations.