Hands-on coding experiences help elementary students develop workforce-ready skills
Coding in elementary school? That used to be a radical thought. But in order to prepare students – our future workforce – we can't start soon enough.
Last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030. The purpose of the 2018 report, and the goal of the OECD Education 2030 project, is to help schools around the world identify the skills students will need by 2030 and develop appropriate curricula to effectively instill those skills. Coding, robotics, and other employability skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and computational thinking are among those at the top of the list.
A Teacher’s Perspective
Florida educator Jennifer Bozeman, the media specialist at Wildlight Elementary in Yulee, FL, is enthusiastic about and committed to helping students assemble a tool kit of skills they need for success in school, work, and life. A solid understanding of coding and robotics is one such tool she knows they’ll need. “Everything kids are interested in today involves coding. They just aren’t aware of it,” she said. “When you discuss how video games, websites, apps, and so forth all use coding, they begin making real-world connections. I always introduce coding to my students by letting them know the jobs of the future don’t even exist yet. With their jobs likely involving computer science, it’s important to introduce coding at a young age and develop their skills as they get older.”
A Screen-Free Starting Point
Bozeman began using KUBO, a screen-free, plug-and-learn robot, in May 2018 as part of our pilot experience. The most natural starting point was to let her students simply explore the robot and the TagTiles® used for creating code. She wanted them to use their intuition and curiosity. After students built confidence and comfort with moving KUBO around the map, she began implementing the free STEAM-based lesson plans available at KUBO.education online. First up were lessons on routes and functions. “We will continue to progress through the lessons as they become more complex and then transition into block coding,” said Bozeman.
The lessons are a great resource to have, she said. “Any teacher will tell you, when implementing a new program or curriculum, it is always easier to have premade lessons available. Teacher time is valuable. With premade lessons, teachers are not having to think of ways to implement coding into the classroom, especially if the teacher is not comfortable teaching computer science.”
More than Coding (and Robots)
In addition to real-world connections, KUBO helps students develop the beginning of their employability skills, including problem-solving and collaboration. “Using KUBO has allowed a sense of freedom in instruction,” said Bozeman. “As we go through the lessons, there isn’t only one answer, but a multitude of solutions. Students work cooperatively to create paths and functions and receive immediate feedback from KUBO whether their path or function works. If their code is incorrect, they have to debug it and problem-solve the correct solution. Students are thinking through the steps prior to laying down the TagTiles. They’re mapping out their paths in their heads or discussing it as a group before deciding on a final solution.”
“When teaching the lessons, I tell the students to think of KUBO as a self-driving vehicle,” she explained. “If they aren’t using the right TagTiles, KUBO could potentially run into a wall, into another vehicle, and so forth. They have to fundamentally understand what movement each TagTile represents. . . . Students are practicing vital skills such as problem-solving, cooperation, spatial awareness, how simulations can help solve real-world problems, application of new knowledge and vocabulary, and how to develop and present algorithms.” In case there was doubt, coding and robotics is so much more than just coding and robots.
The fun and learning don’t have to stop here though. After students reach this point, they can advance to the KUBO Coding+ TagTiles set. The set’s 36 tiles enable students to control the time, speed, and distance – in addition to direction – of the KUBO robot, help expand students’ experiences, and level up learning. Teachers can create confident programmers who know how to use functions, loops, and subroutines. The Coding+ TagTiles can also be found in the KUBO Coding+ Single Bundle and the KUBO Coding+ 4-Pack Bundle.
Bozeman’s classroom is one of many around the globe. And if her students are any indication of what our future workforce is like, the future is bright. And students will be ready for the world they’ll work and live in.