Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Not So Secret CODE To Student Engagement

This morning it was raining and so it was an "in" day.  I had a lot to do and so I put a sign on my portable door telling the kids to come in the school to the computer lab. My intention was to have them work in the lab until school started.  But, I found out that the teacher that usually starts in the lab, was not going to use her time.  Carpe Diem! Not only did we have an hour in the lab this morning, but we were able to grab a couple of other time slots due to teachers not wanting the lab today. Woot! Woot!

Having so much time on computers today gave me the luxury of giving kids time to learn some Coding. I had them go to and start with the Anna and Elsa activity.  They were self-directed and motivated to learn. Although most worked independently, I noticed that if a peer really got stuck, someone was there to give a hint. (We give hints not answers in our class.) Later in the day, we had more time and I introduced them to the web version of Tynker. I gave the kids some choice since it was towards the end of the school day. They could work in, Tynker, Gamestar Mechanic, or the other coding apps in Edmodo . They could also use the time to work on any online assignments.

We spent nearly the whole day in the computer lab doing a variety of activities. I worried a little bit about so much screen time, but the kids LOVED it! It's easy to understand why they enjoyed the day so much.

Choice-  Students are always more engaged in their own learning when there is choice. There were some general directions, but for the most part, the students directed themselves. Tynker and others have done a marvelous job (from the viewpoint of a teacher with no coding background) to provide engaging free activities for the kids to try. There is variety and choice for every type of learner.

Challenge-  Learning to code and solve the puzzles is challenging for many kids. But, it isn't so challenging that the kids give up and don't try. In fact, they are "in the zone" where magical learning takes place because the kids are so motivated to solve the problem at hand. They learn through trial and error. Errors teach and they make adjustments and move on to the next problem. Today I heard little bursts of "Ya! I did it!" or " close!" all day long.

Instant Feedback-  Students didn't have to wait to get valuable feedback that would help them learn and progress. The feedback was instant! They were allowed to try again and as many times as necessary until they completed the puzzle. There were no grades! There were no high-stake tests! They were intrinsically motivated, made a huge amount of progress, and experienced the real joy of learning.

Personal Success-  Today wasn't about competing with a neighbor. It was more about competing with yourself. There were all kinds of personal victories today. Peers celebrated those triumphs together.  My personal delight came while watching some of my "lowest" math students love and succeed at coding. They didn't have a clue about degrees, loops, and angles before but they sure understand it now. Little victories! I can build upon their successes that they experienced today at math. I can use the self-confidence that they gained to attack other challenges.

It was a great day!

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