A Coded World: What Might Be Possible Offline?

Tomorrow, almost all elementary educators in Ontario begin a week of remote learning with their students. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, especially since I’ve heard from numerous teachers that this could be a great time to “teach coding” with their kids. Everyone will have a device. I get it. There are great apps and programs that support coding expectations in the new Math Curriculum Document. I’m wondering though if all of this learning needs to happen on a device.

If you read most educator chats on Twitter, you will see the concerns shared about so much time in front of a computer or iPad screen. I realize that there are limits to other ways to connect synchronously with your class if you can’t join your students in a school. But just because this learning has to happen online, does it mean that the asynchronous learning also has to be online?

Back in October, two of our students created a game outside, which involved directional language.

We saw many parallels to coding, and wondered if exploration in the outdoors could support some low-tech coding options. As students began to create obstacle courses around the sandpit outside, we started to make links to more directional language and coding terminology.

Could this be extended even more to debugging an obstacle course program that doesn’t work? Or even looping to allow for multiple turns at the same “program?”

As this was happening outside, a few children in the classroom were creating paper video games. Look at the connections here to coding with the movement of the characters and the directional language involved.

I then began to think about some of the Rube Goldberg Machines and marble runs that children were making in class. Could we look more at directional language as part of this building, and draw parallels between “debugging” and the modifying of creations when things don’t work?

Now I will admit that I don’t know enough about all of the coding expectations in the Math Curriculum Document or all of the materials available to students at home to know what might be possible. Maybe tablet and computer options would sometimes be best. If we want students to step away from devices though, what might be some low-tech coding possibilities for them to explore? How could they then use technology to capture and share their learning with us? I see great opportunities here for video recordings and reflections. What about you? I have to wonder if we also show students how these math concepts might be supported and explored in different environments, if it might help them see and appreciate math more as part of their everyday lives. I am all for mathematizing our world. Could this happen during our remote learning week? How might you support this in your virtual classroom? Here’s to the value of sharing as we look ahead to our January start-up online.


2 thoughts on “A Coded World: What Might Be Possible Offline?

  1. Aviva,

    You address something here that I actually have thought a lot about. I think a lot of people will assume they can hand the kids a device and viola!, they will learn to code! I think so many teachers don’t understand coding and I hope this changes as we are professionally developed at school.

    I’ve been working on a lesson writing project with the OAME and we have two “unplugged” coding lessons for every grade 1-8. They are matched to the new curriculum and really get kids using directional language, following code, writing code and editing code. There are also coding lessons that require tech, but I love the unplugged ones! https://ontariomath.support/

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! Such a great point here about the developing our own understanding of coding, and that having access to a device doesn’t mean that kids (or adults) will learn to code. Your unplugged lessons sound incredibly interesting. I wonder how they might be modified for kindergarten. I need to check out the link more. Thanks for extending the conversation! Good luck this week!


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