According to Code.org, the majority of Americans want schools to teach computer science, but only 35 percent of high schools teach it. And even though 15 states have adopted a policy to give all high school students access to computer science courses, universities prepare way fewer computer science teachers than we need. It’s more abysmal in the younger grades, with only six states giving all K-12 students access.
For teachers who would like to bring computer science into their classrooms, there are several great resources to assist. Code.org’s free online courses teach programming languages or how to create games, apps, and websites. The site also features a database of in-person programming classes and opportunities.
If you’d rather just jump right in, here are some teacher-recommended programs and products that will get your students coding in no time.
Coding and robotics programs
“Money, time, and skill are the obstacles teachers jump through to use new classroom tools. KinderLab’s KIBO robot not only brings coding to life—it inspires creativity in a hands-on, playful way that doesn’t involve screens. KIBO is reasonably priced, user friendly, and doesn’t require a manual or IT support. Its versatility across STEAM subjects makes it a valuable piece of educational machinery.”
—Katie Blagden, K-4 STEAM educator and coach, Ayers Ryal Side Elementary School, Beverly, Mass.
“There is instant gratification when making with littleBits. I introduce my students to how they work and what the colors mean, demonstrate how they snap together, then let them start creating. As a result, the kids are more confident and creative; they are much more independent with their projects and their ideas.”
—Lesa Wang, STEAM teacher, Marymount Lower Middle School, New York, NY
Related: 20 ideas for teaching coding in math, science, social studies, and ELA
“Our robot, Milo, has been a great addition to our school team. The students are eager to and enjoy working with Milo. They especially love dancing with him. As we work through the robots4autism modules and are learning the curriculum, we have been able to target specific skills for specific students and have been able to generalize skills easily, thanks to all the supporting activities the program provides. Milo has also provided us a common language to use with students that we are starting to use throughout the school.”
—Anne Marie Kroker, educator, learning support services, Abbotsford School District, Canada
“We’re using CoderZ by Intelitek, a platform that is completely online with virtual robot simulations, thus reducing the need for robotics kits and pieces. This has helped us cut equipment expenses to a minimum and, even better, our teachers need no specialized training to teach robotics classes, which cuts the costs even more. This is particularly beneficial for districts that have been unable to establish or expand their own robotics programs.”
—Meredith Hoover, robotics instructor, Nicholas County (WV) Schools
“I’m quite pleased with not only the durability of the TETRIX kits, but how much potential they seem to have. Originally intended to help our after-school robotics club prepare for the FIRST®Tech Challenge, we purchased the Competition in a Box set and soon began using it as part of our daily routine in our high school robotic engineering class. The included challenges are designed for both the R/C mode and the PRIZM® controller, but I was delighted to see how readily the set and challenges could be modified to fit the needs of my junior high classes as well. The Competition in a Box set can easily be scaled up or down, based on what robotics platform my classes are using, and has greatly aided in our exploration and implementation of the engineering design process approach to problem-solving while bringing some friendly competition-style projects to the classroom setting.”
—Joe Slifka, robotics and technology teacher, LaBrae High School, Leavittsburg, Ohio
Related: How I intregrate coding across subjects
Why we love our coding & robotics tools #STEM
“Sphero has honestly transformed my teaching, and I can’t imagine teaching physics without Sphero robots. The robots are so versatile that I can use them to teach students a variety of physics concepts in ways that are engaging, fun, and provide opportunities for students to develop 21st–century skills. In my class, students build Sphero boats to study forces, analyze momentum with a Sphero chariot, and play a round of Sphero battle bots to study collisions. Students are creating, collaborating, coding, and learning physics all at the same time and it’s all thanks to Sphero.”
—Lauren Marrone, 11th-grade physics & zoology teacher, North Paulding High School, Dallas, Georgia
“Our 4th-graders are loving the Ozobots and I appreciate the turnkey curriculum. Thirty-six 4th-graders do Ozobot challenges on Fridays, and while students beg for Ozobot time, teachers are witnessing the development of critical inferencing skills needed for deeper-level programming.”
—Beverly Sklar. 4th-grade teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Joliet, Ill.
“I have been so impressed with using KUBO from Pitsco Education in my K-5 classrooms, which I tell my students to think of as a self-driving vehicle. If they aren’t using the right TagTiles, KUBO could potentially run into a wall, into another vehicle, and so forth. They have to fundamentally understand what movement each TagTile represents. As we go through the lessons, there isn’t only one answer, but a multitude of solutions. Students work cooperatively to create paths and functions and receive immediate feedback from KUBO whether their path or function works. If their code is incorrect, they have to debug it and problem-solve the correct solution. Students are thinking through the steps prior to laying down the TagTiles. They’re mapping out their paths in their heads or discussing it as a group before deciding on a final solution. KUBO has allowed a sense of freedom in instruction and I love that my students are practicing vital skills such as problem solving, cooperation, spatial awareness, how simulations can help solve real-world problems, application of new knowledge and vocabulary, and how to develop and present algorithms.”
—Jennifer Bozeman, preK-5 media specialist, Wildlight Elementary in Yulee, Florida