I am sure you have heard it already, “coding is the new literacy.” Maybe, maybe not.  What I do believe strongly however is that coding and programming helps students to think creatively and problem-solve.  Basically “hands-on” critical thinking!  In my Early Childhood classroom there are four main ways that I go about this:

Robot Turtles

“Robot Turtles is a board game you play with your favorite 3-8 year old kids.
It sneakily teaches the fundamentals of programming.”

The accolades for Robot Turtles keep coming in, and my students love playing it! The premise behind it is that you give your Robot Turtle instructions for how to reach the gem (basically simple instructions such as forward, left, right, laser, etc).

Pros:

  • board-game based (ie. no tech required)
  • up to 4 players can play at a time

Cons:

  • requires an adult to play with (at least in the beginning till the students get the hang of it)
  • set up time (about 5 minutes to set-up the board, hand out cards, etc and then the same for clean up)

Kodable

Kodable has a complete web-based curriculum for purchase along with resources.  We use the iPad app version whose basic version is free and the full paid version is $6.99 at the time of writing.  The premise is to get your fuzzy little robot to move around a maze (grid) collecting as many coins as possible in the process.

Pros:

  • very intuitive interface (no reading required)
  • can support multiple student accounts on the same iPad (and adjust difficulty level for each student accordingly)

Cons:

  • 1-1 based so only as many children can play as you have iPads

Cubetto

The robot! Really a simple wooden square on two wheels but since becoming part of our classroom he has been a big hit.  The students gave it a name (Tiny Joe), read it stories, plan their play around it (making it a bed and some friends).  The premise behind it is to give the robot instructions by way of direction arrows on the wooden board.

Pros:

  • Hands-on
  • Cool appeal
  • Multi-player (and students learn how to take turns and share)
  • Endless possibilities (I give a new “challenge” every day – go under the bridge for example) but the students extend to all sorts of other ideas using their imagination (hopefully we will be printing a 3D tow ball to pull Lego Duplo train cars before the end of the year).

Cons

  • After four instructions the directions loop (see pic below) and this often confuses students because right then becomes left, etc.  I have solved this problem by only having students give four instructions at a time until they get the hang of it.
  • Cost (about $200 at time of writing: May 2015)

Grids & Arrows

Grid’s-n-Arrows (soon to be copyrighted by me =).  It really is as simple as it sounds.  I printed out a set of “instructions” in the form of arrows (forward, right, left) and introduced the concept to the kids where one kid plays robot and the other plays brain.  The brain tells the robot what to do (we usually have a third kid stand somewhere on the playground grid as the target destination) by handing our cards to the robot that has to act them out.  Alternatively you can use a whiteboard and markers.  The kids really love this game and lots of extensions come naturally such as “now I will tell you to hop and I will draw a circle ok?”

Pros:

  • Hands-on and great for active learners
  • Cheap with little in the form of prep required
  • Multi-player
  • Students extend the game naturally on their own and can play independently on the playground etc.

Cons:

  • None, aside from maybe printing out papers?

DISCLAIMER: while I am happy to run with many of the ideas that are presented to me, credit for coming up with them in the first place and sharing them with me goes to John Iglar (ICS Addis Director of Technology).  Thanks!

Yoda Fountain at the Presidio, San Francisco

“Always pass on what you have learned.” – Yoda

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