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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Teaching Coding With CS First

This is a guest post from Keith Kelley. Keith is the integrated technology instructor at Sebasticook and Somerset Valley Middle School in central Maine.

"The limit to the system is the number of coders we have, our policy is to hire as many coders as we can."  Mark Zuckerberg

Coding is important and MIT’s Scratch platform has been a fabulous boon to the classroom. The learning curve for the teacher and creation of lesson plans had not caught up to those classrooms yet. Enter Google’s attempt to help fill the coding skills gap through their CS-First initiative.

You do not need to be an expert in Scratch or coding to let your students learn on their own. As I have used it in my class I found students enjoyed the self-paced video tutorials with matching Scratch Starter Programs. I have used the Gaming Theme club to allow my students to successfully code and design their own Games.

They will provide you free materials (badges, lessons, etc..) however all can be done through the CS-First digital interface as well. They have set them up to be clubs with volunteers and after school meeting times, but I easily adapted it to use in my school schedule.

There are a variety of other themes which lend themselves to other core subject areas. For instance, I used the Storytelling Theme as an enrichment activity for my high level writers.

The dashboard is excellent to keep track of students badges, which they earn for completion of watching the video tutorials and commenting on them. It also provides easy way to click student account and open their actual scratch game they made for that lesson. I would recommend adding the name of the student in the dash board to be with their account for ease of use.

Typical Themes run for a 10 hour session with 8 badges and Scratch Games to create. I really like the feature of the kids being able to share their games with their classmates and other students to play. My students have used PC or Chromebooks to access their Clubs (each club has a code the students log into once which creates their CS-First accounts which is linked to a Scratch account)

I have used Scratch to teach coding before but CS-First has added an excellent management piece and ability for students to self-pace. I highly recommend it whether you use it in the classroom or for an after school coding club.

About the author:
A Maine educator for 25 years, Keith is currently teaching Integrated Technology for RSU19. Having taught Language Arts, Social Studies and serving as the School Librarian, this is his first experience teaching IT. Students make Skateboards, Robots, Computer Games, Fly Drones and 3D Print Projects in this class. He earned his Bachelors and Masters Degree in Education at UMaine. He has coached soccer, track, and various tech camps. In his free time he enjoys riding around in his classic mustang with his wife and dogs.

Get in touch with Keith at KeithKelley (at) RSU19.net and see more of his work at Learn 3D.