Coding in the Elementary Classroom
A) If we provide teachers with professional development in introductory coding (computer programming) concepts and the chance to practice, as well as links between coding concepts and the Ontario curriculum, they will be more likely to turn to coding as a teaching strategy to improve math skills.
B) If we provide opportunities for students to learn coding concepts and use robotics devices, then students' skills and achievement levels in spatial and algebraic reasoning will improve.
Our project will integrate technology through computer programs and iPad apps designed to teach coding to elementary students. As well, we will use the new robotics equipment recently purchased by our board's Classroom Support Centre. This includes: BeeBots, Lego WeDos, Lego EV3s, and Dash and Dot. When we refer to robotics devices, we mean devices that are programmed by the students, either with buttons (eg. BeeBots) or by using drag and drop coding (eg. Lego WeDo, Lego EV3, Dash and Dot).
This project will improve numeracy instruction by building capacity among participating teachers and their colleagues with 21st century tools that are both engaging and effective.
Research has shown that improvements in spatial reasoning can lead to higher overall mathematics scores (Nora Newcombe), and is central to STEM success. As well, “Spatial reasoning is malleable and can be improved through education and experience.” (CBS: Paying Attention to Spatial Reasoning)
Coding, even for junior students, involves the use of math concepts such as variables, symbolic representations, operators and the Cartesian plane. It also inherently draws upon the mathematical processes, which underpin all coding projects. From CBS: Paying Attention to Spatial Reasoning, we can also identify the following skills that are developed during coding activities: manipulating objects, imagining objects moving in space, diagramming, shifting dimension, perspective taking, visualizing, scaling up or down, navigating and way finding.
The project would provide A) teachers and B) students with opportunities to participate in technology activities such as Hour of Code, and access math connected curriculum developed by app makers such as Hopscotch, Tynker, Scratch and Touch Develop. As well, two culminating Scratch projects will be designed, one game-based and one “math machine.”
Using their knowledge of coding, the students will also carry out an inquiry project using a robot of their choice. At the introductory meeting, the project participants will identify their own learning needs, and will devise a series of grade appropriate pre and post assessments.
At that time, we will also decide how to approach our work linking coding with the Ontario curriculum: daylong symposium, grade partners, smaller meetings? A blog or Office 365 spreadsheet? In addition, we will determine a method of sharing our findings with our colleagues.
This project will take place over two years. In the first year, an emphasis will be placed on building teacher capacity in this aspect of the math curriculum (spatial reasoning), providing hands-on coding practice, and learning how to operate the robots. As well, participants will take the opportunity to plan classroom activities and observe students carrying out coding activities and using the robots. These experiences will provide the background for writing and refining the data collection tools to measure the impact of coding and robotics on students’ spatial reasoning skills.
In the second year, more teachers in each participating school will be included, and a larger data collection component will take place.
Our project aligns directly with the NNDSB BIPSA. The BIPSA includes the following specific strategies for mathematics improvement, and these form the numeracy basis of our LC project:
Make spatial reasoning explicit during mathematics and other curricular experiences, as outlined in the CBS, Paying Attention to Spatial Reasoning K12 document: