Saint Patrick’s is a small, pre-K–8 Catholic school in Yorktown Heights, New York. Last
year, we received a grant to revamp our computer lab into what we call a STREAM lab, which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math. The grant allowed us to invest in 30 new MacBook Airs to supplement our existing iPads and Chromebooks. Before we spent a cent, though, we made certain to connect every purchase with our two important goals: improving each individual child’s academic and career prospects, and improving our students’ scores on state assessments, which are critical to whether we’re succeeding or failing as a school. To that end, here are four essential skills that we strive to teach all of our students by the time they finish middle school.

1. Robotics and coding
Like many schools, we’ve expanded our robotics and coding programs. For the past year, we’ve been using the Sphero SPRK+ and Dash and Dot to introduce robotics and support inquiry-based learning. This year, students will also be using Ozobot’s Bit and Evo robots, as well as Lego WeDo and Mindstorms robotic kits. Robots encourage kids to collaborate and to drive lessons with their creativity. They decide as a team what they’re going to accomplish, and they go from there.

When it comes to coding, our K–8 students start with the visual block programming platform Blockly. In addition, our 8th-graders use CodeMonkey, an online platform that teaches them text-based coding in a language called Coffee Script. Students take on the character of a monkey, and each lesson is part of their monkey’s quest to earn bananas. The goal is to make coding fun, and to prepare our students to program using other text-based languages like Python and JavaScript.

4 tech skills every middle-schooler needs #edtech #k12 #edchat

2. Keyboarding
Today’s students need keyboarding skills for coding, but also for their assessments, which are now being delivered online. Here in New York, students can be required to type paragraphs on an assessment as early as 3rd grade, and our state standards require keyboarding skills as well.

About the Author:

Rebecca Steck is the principal and Jennifer Vespucci is the computer teacher at Saint Patrick’s School in Yorktown Heights, New York.


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