Stage 2: Applying a Problem-Based Mindset to Cross-Curricular Lessons    

Each day, we all need to take large amounts of information and figure out how to break them apart into doable tasks. We teach students these skills by weaving computer programming instruction into daily learning, rather than keeping the lesson isolated. Once students understand sequencing methods to reach a solution, we then pair up students to work together as they take turns as the lead in solving each problem.

I usually spend four sessions working with students to use CodeMonkey, and then students continue the series of challenges on their own. In this second stage of understanding computer programming languages, students are using so many problem-solving skills, critical thinking, mathematics and mapping skills. Many teachers utilize the math skills that are embedded in different levels of the game, such as using angles, degrees and measuring, into other lesson planning.

Our students in second grade have had lessons in technology and coding since they were in kindergarten. The difference in how they now approach problem-solving is stark. These students are not afraid to try. They come up with new ways to use technology that benefits their learning style, and many of them are open to teaching peers and leading tasks.

Students love when we teach them a new skill that incorporates technology–especially those who may struggle in a traditional learning format. Many are more on task and involved in their learning when they can use new tools and online applications. In a few of my classes we have students that have trouble participating in all the general education classes, but they are eager to get involved with game-based learning.

Students in third and fourth grade rush to sign up for the after-school STEM classes because each session only holds a small number of participants. When they have completed school tasks and have extra time, they often choose to do activities that involve computer science, and many students also utilize these accounts from home.

Teaching for the Future

I understand when teachers might be hesitant to try new tech products in their classroom – especially at the elementary level. It’s natural to want to know how to help every student, but with coding and other modern learning skills, we as teachers need to be the coaches. Recently I heard Alice Keeler talk as a keynote speaker at ITIP 2017 and she said, “teach the future, not your comfort level.”

It’s okay not to know the answer. Instead, be a guide on the side and give the support that our students need. Now is the time to celebrate mistakes that give way to true learning.

About the Author:

Kristen Fudale is an academic technology specialist at Fishcreek Elementary and Riverview Elementary Schools in Stow Munroe Falls, OH. She advocates for problem-based learning as she works to integrate new technologies that influence creative curriculum.