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Teach Coding in the Classroom: Resources from ISTE '14

Ashley Cronin

Digital Resource Curator
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I was super excited to attend Hack Education (originally called “EdubloggerCon”), an all-day unconference held the Friday before the formal start of ISTE 2014. This interactive day of learning, now in its eighth year, was touted to me as the event to attend in Atlanta, and it did not disappoint. The informal, small-group conversations were inclusive and welcoming. The "rule of two feet" meant that if you needed to move, you were encouraged. And session topics were diverse -- on the schedule were discussions about maker education, augmented reality, design thinking, game-based learning, coding in the classroom, digital storytelling, and many, many more!

In an attempt to heed Dave Guymon’s call to share the ISTE learning (see his blog post on Getting Smart, "Don’t Leave Your Learning Behind: What To Do Now That #ISTE2014 Is Over"), here are some resources discussed by a group of elementary and secondary educators during a morning session on coding in the classroom. No matter what grade or subject you teach, you're certain to find something here you can use. Notes from this and several other sessions can be found on the wiki for ISTE Unplugged; also check out the Twitter stream from the event at #HackEd14 or #HackEducation.

Coding Curriculum, Activities, and Projects If you didn’t have a chance to participate in “Hour of Code” this year during Computer Science Education Week, consider participating with your class next year. Additional resources have been uploaded to since the initiative was launched. Check out the free, K-8 Intro to Computer Science course; it includes a mix of web-based and unplugged activities.

Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA): The CSTA website houses information about standards for computer science education in grades K-12.  Also see their highlighted resources page.

Scratch, ScratchJr, and ScratchED: Developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab for ages 8-16, Scratch is a free, web-based, visual-programming environment. Users of Scratch can share projects and check out the projects of others in the online community; participation can help students learn important lessons about digital responsibility and digital citizenship. Reference the Scratch curriculum guide and this video overview on Scratch for help getting started.

Computer Science Unplugged: CS Unplugged offers a series of activities for teaching coding concepts to children without technology. For example, in "Harold the Robot," children give directions to a “robot” and learn how instructions are interpreted literally by computers. Be sure to explore other low-tech ways to help children in the younger grades to explore coding concepts, including games; board games (such as the soon-to-be-released Code Monkey Island) are another approach to explore.

Projects and Additional Projects, from Google’s Made w/Code: Looking for coding projects designed with girls in mind? These beginning and intermediate coding projects from Made with Code -- an initiative championing creativity, girls, and code -- are an excellent place to start.

Applications for Programming and Teaching Coding

Here are just a few of the other web- and tablet-based applications that were discussed; see some of Edutopia's recent blogs, listed below, for additional suggestions and other resources.

Related Blogs on Coding in the Classroom from Edutopia

Some Final Notes

If you haven’t attended an unconference like this one, I highly encourage you to do so! Edutopia's events page, updated weekly, includes a list of upcoming unconferences. The Edcamps page includes more information about Edcamp-style unconferences. Do you know of other helpful resources related to coding in the classroom? We’d appreciate hearing about your experiences, resources, or questions in the comments. And if you attended ISTE 2014, consider participating in Edutopia’s community spaces to share your learning from one of education’s biggest technology conferences.

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Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Thanks for these great resources! I did Hour of Code with my 8th graders last December, and they had a blast! I had them sit with a partner, but they each had their own device. Just like I often see when they work with technology, they enjoyed helping each other out, even if they weren't using the same resource that their partner was.

In my Digital Media class, I let students pursue whatever project interests them. Three boys formed their own company, taught themselves to code, and worked all year on designing and coding their own app game. It's fun to listen to them talk about the process -- here's a peek into their struggles this past year:


Ashley Cronin's picture
Ashley Cronin
Digital Resource Curator

Laura, wow, so interesting to hear your students talk about their process (not always a smooth journey) and what they learned along the way. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Just read in Techcrunch that recently just expanded all of their free resources to include a code studio and a toolset and curriculum for teaching kids programming.

Here's a direct link to their studio: Anyone check this out yet?

Tali Gueta's picture

My 5th graders really enjoyed using for hour of code.
It's so fun and it lets them learn coding while writing real lines of code, and experience in a trial-and-error kind of game.

VocabularySpellingCity Mayor's picture
VocabularySpellingCity Mayor
VocabularySpellingCity is on a mission to improve student reading comprehension through improving vocabulary retention. And making it fun for the students, easy on the teachers. I'm also the founder of, K-2nd science.

Hi, My company had a great time going to our local schools helping with the Hour of Code. We've created a resource which we thought could help, it's a two minute video which helps student understand the link between the coding exercises and jobs and careers:

irfanlalani90's picture

Hi, I am Teach For India fellow and have started teaching coding to my kids in a low income school in Ahmedabad, India. I started it after participating in the Hour of Code event last year. Considering my experience, I believe that coding really helps in thinking, literacy and Math. This year, I am pursuing it as a project and want to find out in context of my community how does it impact learning. Moreover, I also want to document a flow which the enthusiastic teachers can try it in their classroom so that coding can be prevalent in schools in India also. I would really appreciate thoughts, comments, guidance or help. Thank you.

Scott Bedley @scotteach's picture
Scott Bedley @scotteach
Teacher, Creator, Un-Maker, Foodie, Global School Play Day

Hey Irfanlalani,
It sounds like your doing amazing things! I love the way you are looking at this practically. One thought on a way to approach the planning or flow of creating a program that supports and shows data on codings benefits is through the eyes of a foreign language teacher. Code (and the variety of types of code) will be the vital additional language students need to know to succeed in the world. Take a look at and and think Project Based Coding. I hope this helps point you in the right direction. Let me know if your want more specifics.

irfanlalani90's picture

Hey Scott,

Firstly, Thanks a ton for your reply. I really like the point of looking it as an additional language and moreover the project based idea of teaching code is also very exciting. And even I have planned that the year end goal of kids will be to make story, animation or game on their own. My challenges currently are
1) showing peers the need of coding with facts
2) My kids don't have English as first language. I have read that coding also helps in Literacy and have realized so while conducting unplugged activities. Figuring out ways to document the growth.
3) I want to also document with the help of a rubric that how coding helps in critical thinking and problem solving. I have tried to make a rubric. Want to know experience of someone who has already tried it.

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