By Dean Vendramin and Melinda Demeter
There are couple of movements, which although not entirely new, deserve a push, poke, and a plug. These movements are coding, and makerspaces being infused in the classroom. Recently, in an Education Master’s class, we examined the learning theories, tools, and complexities of these movements. We were listening to a podcast recently about making and coding in the classroom. It went along the lines of this … ‘the mindset that we need to prepare students to climb that ladder and be able to win the race is no longer relevant in today’s world, the ladder has been replaced by a maze that students need to be able to navigate, pivot, and create their own path in’. We believe that this reality is true and that it is education’s responsibility to provide students with learning opportunities to best prepare them for their future. Both coding and makerspaces provide these opportunities.
Coding in the classroom usually gets designated to Computer Science classes and maybe a math class. However, coding should not be just relegated to a couple of specific classes. Also, coding isn’t just a 0s and 1s thing or advanced coding language, block coding makes the entry point easier and one can even do coding ‘unplugged’ where one can use paper cutouts to create computational learning opportunities. Exposing and engaging students with computational thinking opportunities provides them with skills to solve wicked problems. The goal isn’t to have all students become computer scientists but to allow students to construct their learning and grow a valuable growth mindset skill set.
As both Dr. Bryan Sanders and the Codebreaker Brian Aspinall highlighted during our interviews (http://shorturl.at/makecode ), coding has a lot to offer when it comes to teaching various subject matters, for example Language Arts. Hour of Code (https://hourofcode.com ) offers a variety of examples that can be easily implemented into teaching. Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/ ) is an amazing tool for story writing as well as Minecraft Education where the stories can come to life. Saskcode (https://www.saskcode.ca ) offers different ideas and lesson plans on coding as well as PD sessions. Using the Bee Bot, Ozobot, Arduino, etc. are fun and engaging ways to take learning to the next level. Having coding infused into our classrooms also helps reaching the various needs of our students. One might even call them a type of Assistive Technology.
If you are asking yourself if implementing makerspaces is truly worth the trouble, you need to listen to Jennifer Gonzales’ podcast (https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/makerspace/ ) where John Spencer not only describes the importance of constructionism and connectivism makerspaces offer but the depth they give to the process of learning and teaching by being fully immersed in the beauty of creating. In the above mentioned podcast, John Spencer also provides a few ideas on creating our own makerspaces and incorporating them into teaching various subject matters to help all our students play an active role in their own learning.
Hope this provides some insights and resources that one can use to start or continue their coding and makerspaces journey. For more resources and tips check out http://shorturl.at/makecodewakelet . You don’t have to be an expert or have all the bells and whistles to start being a part of this journey. There are many entry points and many people willing to offer their time, talent, and treasures. So next time you are thinking of having your classroom experience level up, make it happen. As always you can reach out to the two of us on Twitter @vendi55 and @Melinda74108321