As educators, it’s our job to figure out how to equip students with the skills they need to be well-prepared for college and careers. At Amana Academy, a public charter school that is part of Fulton County Schools in Georgia, our instructional approach calls for students to solve real-world problems using engineering design and technology. As a certified STEM school, we’ve tried to think outside the box when it comes to integrating tech across subjects to boost student learning.
By moving away from the textbook in traditional classes and instead integrating technology and projects, we are able to take our students by surprise, grab their attention, and increase their confidence in STEM-based skills.
Bring coding into the classroom
Our curriculum is based on an expeditionary learning framework, meaning that teachers develop curriculum that involves all content areas and encourages collaboration across subjects. This method of cross-curricular thinking means we’re training multiple skills at the same time. We identified that coding was a great asset that could be integrated into all of our subjects—not just computer science class.
I’ve found that the first step to success starts with the teachers becoming comfortable with tech and recognizing that it can be applied in any class with a little bit of creativity. You don’t need to be a coding expert to bring coding into the classroom. It’s a process, and there are a variety of resources available to implement it with ease.
My coding toolbox
By now, most of us are aware of the breadth of coding products available that are specifically targeted to education. Navigating through the options can be a bit overwhelming, so here are three resources I’ve used successfully in the classroom.
- We use Kano Computer Kit Completes, which allow students to build their own computer and then use the computer for engaging coding projects. It works seamlessly with a variety of apps, and the hardware components are targeted to students, making it easy to use.
- Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools, offers free courses and projects targeted toward building coding confidence in students. We used their how-to guide to integrate an Hour of Code into our school; students work on coding-based activities for 60 minutes without interruption.
- We also use Codecademy as a resource for online coding courses. They offer a variety of online classes that range from beginner to expert level. I’ve increased my own coding confidence by taking a few of their classes.
Minecraft in history class?
To really build on the mission of encouraging students to use creativity and tech, I came up with a project that uses Minecraft to teach U.S. history. Students build computers using the Kano kits and then play out what they have learned about the Civil War by creating bases with a limited supply of resources in-game. They use critical-thinking as well as creativity skills while demonstrating what they’ve learned. By having students immerse themselves in the curriculum, I’ve found that they have a higher recall and are excited about what they’ve learned.
Reinvigorating student learning through tech-infused activities is the perfect culmination of inspiring their creativity while teaching them vital skills they’ll need in life.
I encourage other teachers to think differently and take a chance by trying something new in your classroom. We’re raising students in a digital age, so it’s only fair that we give them the opportunity to hone their skills before they enter college and/or the workforce.