The great thing about technology and programming education is that it is a relatively new field and ripe for innovation and experimentation.
So that’s exactly what NewTechKids did last Thursday when we organized a brainstorming session at Google’s Amsterdam headquarters. We brought together a group of Dutch and international teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum experts, designers, developers, and technology professionals dedicated to expanding technology and programming education in schools.
Joe Fletcher, Creative Director at frog design and Raft Collective, and a seasoned facilitator, did a great job of guiding us through this very productive brainstorming process.
Purpose: Helping Teachers Teach Technology and Programming Concepts
We challenged participants to generate ideas for lessons that primary school teachers can teach to students (aged 7-9) during EU Code Week from October 11 – 18, 2015.
EU Code week was initiated by Neelie Kroes, the former EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, as a way to encourage children and adults in the European Union to learn to code and discover programming.
Our goal was to develop lessons focused on computational thinking and the core concepts behind coding, as opposed to coding skills. The icing on the cake: the lesson ideas could not involve any technology. No computers. No screens. No gadgets. No apps. Just pen and paper, arts and crafts, games and imagination. NewTechKids is committed to lowering the barrier to teach technology and programming concepts, especially among primary school teachers who often don’t have technical or coding skills.
This is very much in line with NewTechKids’ pedagogy and teaching approach. We believe that coding and programming education is a great way to teach higher order thinking skills (problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, logic) and prepare children to be inventors and innovators.
To inspire participants, NewTechKids shared lesson plans from our ‘Intro to Programming’ bootcamp for 7 – 9 year olds. The bootcamp covers concepts ranging from programming and automation to binary numbers, commands, variables, functions, design processes and rapid prototyping.
Teachers, Designers, Programmers and Others Collaborating
We broke the group into small teams comprised of teachers, designers and people with programming and technology backgrounds. Each team was responsible for coming up with two ideas for lessons around computational thinking and coding-related concepts.
NewTechKids was lucky to have a multidisciplinary group of participants. They included teachers from Dutch and international primary schools, teacher trainers from universities, Master’s students studying computer science, professional designers specializing in playful interaction and gaming, experienced programmers and executives who manage technology teams.
A curriculum expert from the prestigious International Baccalaureate foundation talked about the importance of ‘transfer’ (kids being able to apply what they learn in technology education to other subjects and topics) and gave just-in-time feedback during the team exercises.
We were very pleased with how well the teams collaborated and the quality of their ideas. The following are two examples of lesson ideas that teams developed during the brainstorm.
–Spy Flashlight Powered by Coding
Students design flashlights using toilet paper rolls, LED lights and batteries. Then children create simple codes which are executed by using the flashlight. (E.g. three short flashes mean jump). Each student gives code commands using the flashlight and the other follows the commands to navigate through an obstacle course. This lesson’s core concepts are design, programming, automation and commands.
This is a variation on the spy flashlight lesson, substituting a buzzer for the flashlight. Students create a programming language (simple commands) which are executed by other kids using the buzzer. In this variation, one child is blindfolded and has follow the buzzer commands to navigate an obstacle course. This lesson’s core concepts are design, programming, automation and commands.
NewTechKids loved all of the ideas and insights that were shared and plan to incorporate them into our teaching and upcoming programs.
We’re going to develop one or two of these ideas into proper lesson plans. We’ll test them during our programs and share them with participants in time for EU Code Week in October 2015.
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Technology and Programming Education
• P.J. Troelstraschool
• Cornelis Vrijschool
• Amsterdam International Community School (AICS)
• International School of Amsterdam (ISA)
• International Baccalaureate foundation
Higher Education Institutions
• Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
• University of Amsterdam
• Hogeschool Utrecht
• frog design/Raft Collective
• Captain Dragon