Teaching kids to code helps them in English, math, science and more

CodeSnaps no-cost app addresses dearth of K-12 computer science courses

Despite the high demand for tech-savvy workers, the majority of US high schools do not offer a computer science (CS) course. This is particularly troubling as the benefits of computer science instruction can extend into other subjects such as math, science and even English language arts (ELA). Educators are using a no-cost app, CodeSnaps, to inject CS education into their classrooms in innovative and surprising ways.

According to Computer Science for All-North Carolina, “From fashion designers and musicians to quality control experts, entrepreneurs, and managers, the knowledge gained through CS education can accelerate innovation and change the way people create, design and solve problems in nearly any field.”

Innovative teachers are using CodeSnaps, a no-cost app from the makers of Curriculum Pathways®, to integrate CS concepts into other subjects. CodeSnaps teaches coding basics by enticing students to actively work together, hands-on, to control Sphero, an app-enabled robotic ball that students command using code and an iPad®.

Sean Russell, a fifth-grade math and science teacher in North Carolina, integrates coding into instruction on a regular basis, exposing his students to the principles of programming while also helping them meet math and science standards. Russell uses CodeSnaps to teach fractions and advanced math concepts like parabolas. He also had the students navigate Sphero through a giant image of the digestive system.

In addition, Russell partnered with a social studies colleague to teach a lesson on colonial trade routes where students used a map scale to convert inches to kilometers. The Sphero traveled the trade routes on a map, stopping along the way so students could learn more about different locations.

“The applications are as wide as the teacher’s imagination,” said Russell. “CodeSnaps gets students out of their seats. It teaches kids how to work together, communicate [and] compromise, all of which are important in today’s learning standards.”

At a recent workshop at the North Carolina Reading Association Conference, CodeSnaps developers demonstrated how an elementary ELA teacher might incorporate coding instruction. To teach the concept of short and long vowel sounds, the educator could create a grid on the classroom floor consisting of index cards with a mix of words with different vowel sounds.

Students would program the Sphero to travel from one side of the grid to the other, but only using squares containing short vowel words. Students absorb the vowel sound lesson along with programming knowledge. More complex lessons may involve making the Sphero change colors or spin.

How does CodeSnaps work?

As budget-strapped schools and districts struggle to implement relevant CS coursework, CodeSnaps can be used in any learning environment, including traditional and blended classrooms, 1-to-1 or at home. The collaborative coding activity requires only one Sphero robot and one tablet.

Students prepare programs together using printed paper blocks. The blocks represent pieces of code, which students “snap” together in a certain order to create programs to control the Sphero. They then scan the assembled blocks using the app and run the program, which the Sphero executes.

“It’s a miracle product … the coolest education app I’ve seen,” said Russell.

CodeSnaps is available for iPad through the App Store®. Interested users can also download the app from the CodeSnaps website, where they can view tutorials, print code blocks and find ready-to-go lesson plans.

Catch CodeSnaps and Curriculum Pathways® at ISTE 2017

CodeSnaps will be on display at Booth 300 at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference (ISTE 2017), along with Curriculum Pathways Writing Reviser.

Writing Reviser is the most popular Curriculum Pathways resource. It analyzes a student’s work and highlights areas for revision. By learning to spot passive voice, dangling modifiers, weak verbs and wordiness, it helps students determine how to improve their work. Making it even easier for teachers, an add-in for Google Docs enables students to call up Writing Reviser while they work.

Writing Reviser is one of the resources within Writing Navigator, which helps students become more accomplished writers. They learn to pinpoint their purpose, organize and convey main points, spot missed opportunities, revise their work, and finally document sources and publish a final draft. The app is free at WritingNavigator.com, as well as the Curriculum Pathways site and through iPad and Chromebook apps.

CodeSnaps and Writing Navigator are two of the 1,700 free tools, resources and apps from Curriculum Pathways covering English language arts, mathematics, sci­ence, social studies and Spanish. Used by more than 2 million teachers and students in traditional, virtual and home schools, Curriculum Pathways increases student learning and teacher effectiveness by targeting higher-order thinking skills. Mapping resources to both individual state and Common Core standards helps educators across the country in their planning.

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