Unexpected Learning After #BIT14

I just came back from two incredible days at #BIT14. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to present at this conference as well as attend numerous sessions. While I’m sure that this will just be the first of many blog posts about this conference, it was actually something that happened after this conference that made me think more about what was shared during it.

I’m one of four teacher facilitators for our Junior Coding Club. We meet once a week during second nutrition break to code. The group’s made up of many beginner coders, but also a couple of advanced coders. At lunch today, one of the advanced coders came rushing into the classroom, so excited to share his news. He decided to put a hold on Code Academy, and start using Scratch. During the week, he used the computer version of Scratch to create a flight simulator. This simulator was truly incredible! This Grade 4 student was so thrilled about what he did, that it was hard not to also feel thrilled.

While it was wonderful to see this student so passionate about learning, it was also amazing to hear all of the thinking behind his choices. I was honestly in awe! He thought of everything. He even researched to find out the details about planes at take-off, and used this information in his simulator. He could explain all of his choices and the thinking behind these choices. In this short video clip below you can hear just a tiny snippet of this explanation.

And it was this Grade 4 student that has me thinking back on my #BIT14 experience. Here’s my confession: when I went on Wednesday, I was very unsure about what session to attend in the morning. Usually I love the Minds on Media experience — and I did love all of this year’s facilitators — but there was such a focus on making, tinkering, gaming, and coding. I had some reservations. While I see value in these experiences — to a point — I really wondered about the connection to curriculum. So I decided to attend another session. I loved the other session, and am still glad I went, but I think that I was wrong about Minds on Media.

Today, I saw what coding can offer: links to math skills, connections to reading and writing skills, application opportunities for science topics, and a true focus on the “Thinking” section of the Achievement Chart. Coding may not be for everyone. It may also not be for every subject and every grade level. It can though make learning meaningful and engaging, and it could provide the perfect connection to inquiry: both in the process of figuring out coding, and in the sharing of new learning through coding. Now I wish that I wasn’t so quick to dismiss Minds on Media, and I do apologize for doing so. I’m also going to ask now what I should have asked during my time at #BIT14:

  • How do you connect coding to the curriculum?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks that you see?
  • How have you use coding in the different grade levels?
  • What other options do you give students that are not as interested in coding?
  • How much tinkering time do you provide before you make the curriculum connections for students?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these questions!


4 thoughts on “Unexpected Learning After #BIT14

  1. Great posts Aviva. I was in the same sort of boat. I could see the purpose of coding – both in its own right and in terms of enrichment, logic, problem solving etc. But then I attended Brian Aspinal’s session on coding in Math and had an epiphany. Which has now turned into one of those d’oh, why didn’t I think of it before moments. The curriculum value in coding for me is how well you need to know the concepts to be able to create and debug a working program. As you say, maybe not for all topics and all subjects… but definitely worth adding to your quiver of teaching strategies.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. I was presenting at the same time as Brian yesterday, but really wish I could have gone to his session. I like the way that you describe the benefits of coding. It makes me think of the application part for a subject. I can see this working in the older grades. I wonder more about how teachers use coding in the primary grades.


  2. First of all I would like to thank you for your insightful and engaging presentation at BIT14!

    I think coding allows actively engage in the design process; they have an idea, they make a prototype, try it out, get feedback, go back and tweak etc. This is the sort of process we want them to be doing across all subjects and in all their projects.

    Coding itself doesn’t necessarily have to connect to the curriculum, since the end product the coding creates often does connect. For example, your student’s research into how planes behave at take off could easily connect to a science unit on flight or aerodynamics. Coding is sometimes the conduit that we use to enter the curriculum.

    • Thanks Blayne for the kind words about the presentation and for your comment! I can see what you’re saying about coding, but I wonder if it’s for everyone. What if students are not motivated or engaged by coding? Is coding effective for students with all learning needs? What other options could be available for students that choose not to code?

      I can see your point that the end product that coding creates is connected to the curriculum, but how much time is spent discussing the coding versus discussing the curriculum content? If we think about assessing inquiry in terms of assessing the process, then does coding allow for us to do this well, if the process itself is less connected to the curriculum than the final product? I’m really not sure about the answers to any of these questions, but thanks for getting me thinking some more!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *