A national survey of elementary and middle school teachers in Canada conducted by the C.D. Howe Institute in 2020 found that 53% of teachers felt adequately prepared to teach STEM subjects, with nearly all agreeing that there was room to improve their STEM skills.
Since coding has been recently integrated into the curriculum of many Canadian provinces, it's more important than ever to make sure teachers and educators are prepared to confidently teach these digital skills. Which is why our team of education enthusiasts are here to help!
Coding and robotics can be a fun and engaging way for students to learn about technology and problem-solving. With the right resources and support, you'll be able to guide your students on a journey of discovery and creativity.
Here are our best tips to help you get started teaching coding in the classroom:
1. Start with a solid foundation
Every coding and programming expert was once a beginner, and they too had to learn the basics of coding to start. One of the easiest ways for a beginner to learn to code is with block-based coding.
Platforms like TinkerCAD, MIT's Scratch, and Microsoft's MakeCode use colourful blocks to represent code instead of text. This type of coding is a great introduction to the basic concepts of coding for younger students.
Its main advantage is that it’s visual, intuitive, and easy to understand. The colour-coded blocks makes it easy to recognize the different commands, logical sequences, and how it all fits together.
Another advantage to starting with block-based coding is that it’s less error prone than text. The drag-and-drop style will automatically alert users to errors by highlighting them. This makes it easier to debug the program and makes it less likely for users to get stuck on small errors. These features allow users to focus on effective problem-solving and the logical aspects of coding.
Block-based coding provides a solid foundation of the basic concepts for teachers who are new to coding and provides a steppingstone to learn text-based coding languages later.
Our beginner-friendly webinar series, ‘Coding for Climate’, is designed to inspire and empower educators who are new to teaching coding with creative and engaging ways to approach coding, climate change issues, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into the classroom.
2. Take advantage of free coding resources and lesson plans
A quick search of “coding resources for teachers” in any search engine will yield over 400 million results. As a busy teacher, we understand that you have limited planning time to navigate all of those results.
With so many options and so little time, it’s important to find the right resources and lesson plans for your class.
One resource we recommend is the micro:bit website, which has a section dedicated to teachers. With valuable information like a computing glossary and a guide to managing coding activities in the classroom, this website has everything an educator needs to start planning lessons and projects around current learning objectives.
Another great resource is our very own Mission on the Moon bundle of free courses on lunar exploration. Developed in partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Education, Mission on the Moon is the perfect introduction to coding and robotics for both teachers and students. Check our blog on how to start your ‘mission’ with your class.
For more coding resources for teachers, check out our blog on Computer Science Education Week Resources, here.
3. Highlight coding's practical applications
Coding is becoming an increasingly important skill in today’s digital world. Canada’s economy is growing more dependent on technology and innovation, and jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow at a faster rate than non-STEM jobs.
Over the next decade, Ontario will see a projected 928,700 job opportunities that require a university degree, including more than 233,000 in STEM, according to a 2021 study by Stokes Economics. Computer programmers will make up roughly 29% of needed skilled workers. Providing students with the opportunity to learn coding will prepare them with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.
Coding not only builds creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, but it also helps them understand how technology works. The more we interact with technology, the more important it is to develop informed and responsible digital citizens who can make informed decisions about technology’s use.
4. Don't be afraid to make mistakes
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to learning how to code is trying to rid yourself of the fear of making a mistake. In fact, making an error while coding is expected, even for professionals in the field. Combing through code to find the glitch that’s causing your program to fail is just part of the process.
When it comes to teaching students to code, you’ll be surprised how forgiving your students will be when they see a bug in the code. More often than not, they’ll not only figure out the issue and experiment with solutions on their own, but they’ll help you troubleshoot the error.
Practicing persistence and learning though the failures will encourage your students to build their problem-solving skills and increase their confidence with technology.
5. Stay up to date with the latest tech trends
Coding is a rapidly evolving field, with new versions of coding languages being released all the time, so it’s important to keep on top of the trends and technologies. Saving a small list of go-to resources, like Scratch, MakeCode, TinkerCAD, and Code.org are great ways to find the most recent and relevant coding tools and resources for your class.
Social media is another great resource for educators who are new to coding. Twitter is a great platform to follow experts and thought leaders in the edtech field and there are numerous accounts dedicated to the topic. One such account we recommend following is InkSmith's Twitter account, here.
Following specific hashtags, like #edtech and #codingeducation, helps connect you with other educators and provides insights into the conversations on coding in the classroom.
Overall, teaching coding can be challenging, but also highly rewarding. Don’t let fear hold you back from trying a new and exciting lesson with your students. With a solid foundation, the right resources, and most importantly, persistence, you can lead a successful coding lesson in no time.