Happy Spring, bloggers! I hope you find yourself in a place that’s warm and sunny, with blooming flowers and smells of spring : ) I, however, am in Indiana where the season is technically spring but it still feels like winter. No surprise there. Despite the cold, I’m still keeping busy with school work, field experiences, and work. But enough about me… let’s get into what were learning this week in W310:
This week we are discussing different computer science curricula in W310. There are SO many curricula out there for educators to take a hold of, but in this blog post I’m going to briefly describe a few of my favorites and why, as well as provide links and images so you can explore the resources yourself!
But first…what exactly is a curriculum?
The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. It comprises the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning. The word curriculum can be used specifically or generally – but for the purposes of this blog, we will stick to the definition above.
Below I have described top 3 favorite curricula from this list, and have briefly explained what it is/why I like it so much.
Code.org is one of my favorite computer science websites and resources to use, mostly due to the fact that I’ve used it plenty of times in my college courses. Code.org is an excellent resource for teachers and students to utilize if they’re interested in expanding their knowledge of computer science principles. One amazing thing about the code.org curriculum – it’s FREE. I’ll do ya one even better- they also offer a free, high-quality, 1-day workshop to educators and content-area teachers who are interested in learning how to use Code.org’s courses to introduce computer science basics to their students. How generous is that? There are so many reasons why I love the code.org curriculum, but here are 10 of the most important:
- It’s free – what more can I say?
- It’s flexible for the teacher – allows for students to learn at their own pace, keeping in mind their developmental level and any prior experience
- All lessons align to all relevant computer science standards, as well as to the ISTE standards.
- The material is cross-curricular – concepts and skills taught in other subject areas are reinforced by integrating national Math, English Language Arts, and Science standards.
- Curricula is organized and clear – easy to navigate, customizable
- Activities are student-driven, self-guided, self-paced, sometimes self-graded, and available on a wide range of platforms to allow for learning in a variety of environments
- Empowers teachers through a classroom dashboard that allows supervision of student progress and proactively alerts teachers to learning issues
- Allows for both structured and unstructured approaches to learning
- It’s effective and enhancing – code.org has so many lessons available for teacher to use (unplugged and online) that effectively teach students the principles of CS
- It’s fun for the student – the activities and lessons are engaging and exciting – code.org makes learning about CS fun!
If what I’ve said about code.org has you intrigued, check out an expanded version of their curriculum philosophy here.
According to their website, Tynker is “an online platform that easily and successfully teaches students how to code through the activities they already love: games and stories. Students learn the fundamentals of programming and design through Tynker’s intuitive visual programming language without the frustrations of traditional syntax.” Their goal goal is to provide every child with a solid foundation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) thinking abilities to prepare them for 21st century degrees and careers. Tynker offers a curriculum at 3 levels: free, for one classroom, and for the entire school. Tynker is a lot like code.org and Scratch – students learn about computational thinking and core computer science concepts, as well as the fundamentals of programming found in all object-oriented programming languages. Below are the reasons that I love Tynker’s curriculum:
- The free option allows teachers to create unlimited student accounts, assign our free curriculum, and access dozens of free coding activities and games
- It’s extremely easy to get started teaching programming, even if you don’t know anything about programming
- Programming lessons are scaffolded and Common Core/NGSS-aligned
- Curriculum includes 12 STEM courses
- Tynker has a built-in assessment framework that tracks student progress, individually and at the class level
This one was also an easy choice for me. If you’ve been reading my blog posts, I’m sure you’re aware of my *slight* obsession with Scratch. Scratch is an amazing website that teaches people how to code with interlocking, sequential block coding – much like the block coding that one can do on code.org. Recently, I taught Scratch to a 4th grade class and they absolutely loved it. I was instantly drawn to their curriculum upon researching CS curricula. This curriculum is a little different from the code.org one described above. The Harvard Graduate School of Education created a guide for creative computing – it is a collection of ideas, strategies, and activities for an introductory creative computing experience using the Scratch programming language. The activities are designed to support familiarity and increasing fluency with computational creativity and computational thinking. Below I will list a few reasons why this curriculum is a winner:
- Its extremely organized – the guide is comprised of 7 units (pictured below) and each unit begins with the learning objectives, as well as key words, ideas, and concepts
- Assessment is process-oriented, with a focus on creating opportunities for students to talk about their own (and others’) creations and creative practices
- It offers activities that can be completed without a computer
- You don’t have to know how to use Scratch to teach it – the guide tells you everything you need to know
- There are SO MANY Scratch activities proposed!! So many great ideas available for your students to complete
One reason why this curriculum is my 3rd favorite is that although it offers some unplugged activities, it is entirely Scratch based. This can be great for educators who are interested in Scratch specifically and want to learn more about and teach it to their students, but for those who are looking for a more “well-rounded” curricula, I would stick with the code.org one.
There are literally 1000’s of curricula available out there for teachers to pick and choose from. But it’s a big decision to choose a curriculum, and it involves a lot of research. You really need to think about what you think is most important to you: cost? teaching strategy? student involvement? student learning style? Consider your teaching philosophy and decided if that curriculum reflects the things that you find most important in your teachings!