daleWe sat down with Dale Johnson, Computer Science teacher at Woodland Middle school, in Coeur d’Alene, ID to discuss how he has brought coding into his school.

How did you get started teaching coding in 6th grade?  That is awesome especially since most schools in HIGH SCHOOL don’t even have coding opportunities. Where did you get your first “AHA” moment that ignited the fire?

My first aha moment was at the NCCE conference in Seattle in March 2014. With all of the new technology now available and wifi everywhere, new apps on smart devices have become ubiquitous in our society. The need to teach students coding became very apparent as I attended the sessions at NCCE. While taking my son to college this summer, I noticed all of the coding classes that were being offered for students and teachers at Stanford University. If the kids and teachers from the Silicon Valley were making coding a priority, why can’t the students and teachers in our area of Idaho make coding a priority as well. Upon returning to Idaho I signed up for a Coding class to learn about Scratch with Dr.  Julie Amador at the University of Idaho. The class was outstanding and I was ready to start my quest to teach coding in the upcoming year.

My students would have access to 33 Chromebooks from the JKAF in the upcoming year and how could I integrate coding into the current math program as well as the one six- week course I teach on digital literacy.  I attended a JKAF meeting in September 2014 and heard another speaker talk about using coding in the Classroom with Scratch and Khan Academy. Shortly after the JKAF training I recruited seven students, two 6th grade, three 7th grade, and one 8th grade students to begin using Scratch and Khan Academy on their own.

1st quarter trial/testing period with current students and former students. I have had students testing curriculum materials, and tutorials for Scratch and Khan Academy Computer Programming before implementing the 2nd quarter. I met with them periodically to discuss how to write a scope and sequence that would be fun, engaging, and teach coding.

I introduced our first Scratch Project to my digital literacy class and my two afternoon math classes on Nov. 17.  Students have three choices, create a cartoon or story, game, or an animation by the Dec. 15 deadline. During the time leading up to the deadline I will be showing certain methods of coding to help build their basic skills. Many of the lessons can be learned without direct instruction by using the Scratch Getting Started Guide pdf  I downloaded and printed 20 for free from the Scratch website. I also created over 100 laminated Scratch Cards from the Scratch site that can be used. Scratch also has video tutorials and a wiki that are linked from my classroom web page. The Khan Academy also has a built in coding section that is a little more advanced than Scratch which students have really enjoyed using. The Khan site is the second step in the development of learning how to code.

Are the kids understanding and enjoying coding? Do boys like it more than girls?

Both girls and boys like coding. Boys seem to be drawn to a different style of programming. They really like the shooting or sports aspect. The girls seem to not have a favorite area but enjoy the programming just as much. I have made an effort to encourage the girls that this is not a man’s world. They can succeed at coding too.

What resources/curriculum are you using to teach coding?

Here is my 6 week course for 6th grade students. I also incorporate the Scratch/Khan Academy into my 4 regular math classes as time allows over about 16 weeks. I have found that coding is a natural and meaningful way to teach mathematics (coordinate plane, negative numbers, angles/degrees, etc…) as well as a skill needed in many industries in the future. The scope and sequence for the 6 week course is below:

Steps to Teach Computer Programming

  1. Intro Video from Code.org–Intro from Khan Academy on Programming
  2. Index card activity with commands on tile floor in cafeteria (group work)
  3. 20 step program on code.org
  4. Login process on scratch.mit.edu
  5. Show different types of scratch, See inside command in scratch
  6. Free exploration of scratch, check out see inside
  7. Show help sections in Scratch and direct links on teacher website
  8. Show the basics of Scratch Interface to include (use scratch booklets
    • the Stage
    • Sprite List
    • Blocks Tab
    • Costumes Tabs
    • Sounds Tab
    • Backdrops Tab
    • toolbar
    • sprite info
    • Paint Editor—new lesson
    • Set Transparent Color
    • Saving a project
    • uploading a project from scratch book (.sb2)

Khan Academy CS Site

  • Intro to Khan programming
  • Practice doing the built-in Khan tutorials and projects
  • What type of projects to assign

Here is what Dale Johnson’s sixth grade students are saying since they started coding a few weeks ago:

I enjoy coding because you get to use your own imagination, it’s kind of like painting your imagination. (Paris L.)

Before, I didn’t know anything about coding, but Scratch and Khan Academy have taught me so much and it’s really fun to make games and programs. (Travis J.)

Watch news coverage of Dale’s Hour of Code Event

Dale Johnson is an educator with a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Sacramento and a Masters degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in technology from the University of Idaho, Coeur d’Alene. He began teaching with technology while working as an elementary teacher and technology coordinator in the Plummer/Worley School District for five years.

Mr. Johnson worked as a staff development specialist at the University of Idaho, Coeur d’Alene from 1998-2003. He worked on grant funded projects for classroom technology integration in surrounding districts in Idaho as well as schools in the Washington and Montana. Mr. Johnson was one of the primary authors that assisted districts to secure more than 1 million dollars for technology projects while at the University of Idaho.

Mr. Johnson returned to the classroom in 2003 as a technology teacher in an eighth grade consumer science at Woodland Middle School. While teaching eighth grade, Mr. Johnson secured several technology grants to fund projects for his students. The Quest Foundation awarded one of their nine grants for $9,745.00 to fund a video production project Mr. Johnson had written. Mr. Johnson also secured more than $12,000.00 in other grants from EXCEL Foundation and Ironman CDA for various projects around the implementation of technology.

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