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Have you ever wondered how Kindergarten students could ever think about and learn about how adults code computer programs? You may have heard about The Hour of Code, where students in 180 countries from K to Grade 12 learned to 'demystify' the ideas behind computer programming. We were skeptical Kindergarten children could understand and use such concepts, but wanted them to understand that, when Mario moves, when parents withdraw money from an ATM, when they use an app on an iPad, that a computer scientist designed it to work that way through a series of instructions. So we decided that learning these concepts when you're 4 or 5 should include:
1) Starting with a concept they already knew. Here we are playing Tic Tac Toe. How is that similar to coding? We are thinking about moving on a grid in certain directions, and telling ourselves what to do in a certain order, so that we can block someone else or win the game ourselves.
2) Translating those same skills to a new 'coding' game. This time we're working on a grid to create and follow an arrow path to move the stuffie into its home. We still need to use concrete objects we can touch and move, before we can get abstract and just use a picture on the screen.
3) Modeling their coding session with a teacher on the big screen first before they got to try it themselves. We can remember our grid games and learn how coding is just giving directions to move the bird to the pig, setting up a series of instructions like moving down, up, left and right. Once we click 'Run', the computer will follow our lines of code. The children were so engaged and excited to try it themselves later in the day with Mrs. Stirling in the library.
4) Check us out! We are using the program on smartboards, iPads, and desktops so we can see the same program on different devices. Some of the SKs and some JKs are moving ahead to writing their own lines of code! Everyone is deeply engaged, and can tell us what they are doing themselves to make something happen on the screen. Are there any budding computer scientists in the room? After today, it's a little more likely.
We have learned that there isn't a lot a Kindergarten child CANNOT do, provided it's set up properly by 'crawling inside their heads' thinking about how they think and understand. Kindergarten students can code, and are a little more ready to take their place in a digital society with a job or passion that hasn't been invented yet. Perhaps your child will be that inventor.