Coding, apps and BYOD – developing 21st century learners

Bronwyn WilsonLearning, Technology

Technology in the classroom St Peters Blackwood

We live in a technology driven world. I remember my first encounter with a computer in a massive cream box, tiny black screen with green writing, and learning things like the DOS prompt and C: … I’m showing my age! Today though, we’re designing apps, tweeting, texting, and ‘Google-ing’ everything we want to know about.

In Room 1 (Year 5), they’re using technology, in the form of their hand-held devices, not only to enhance their everyday learning in ways we’d expect, but they’re also delving into the world of programming.

“Coding is now part of the Australian Curriculum,” said Mr Trevor Burmeister (Room 1 teacher and ICT coordinator). “St Peters is in its second full year of our ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) arrangement and we’re all used to seeing the children using their iPads, iPods, or tablets in the course of their day, but what we’re now doing is taking it one step further and using the devices to learn coding to visually represent learning outcomes,” he said.

Mr Burmeister (centre) encourages the students to think laterally to come with their own solutions, rather than showing them how to do it.

The students are using iOS app Hopscotch to create their own mini-app to collect, record and display data, display and convert 12-hour to 24-hour time, or make a virtual dice-throw.

Ebonie has created an app to convert 12-hour time to 24-hour time or vice-versa. “I had to know about 24 hour time first,” she said, “so I’d know what it had to display. Then I had to work out the steps to setting up the display.” Watch Ebonie explain her app in the video below.

Heath and Will have also created a 12-hour time to 24-hour time conversion app. See how their app works in the video below.

The children have worked out the programming themselves through trial and error, collaboration and learning from each other, and through research – looking at how others have tackled similar things in the sharing library on the app. “The students are really challenged to think logically, sequentially and (ultimately) mathematically to work out how to make things happen,” said Mr Burmeister.

Amelia has created two separate data collection ‘pages’ on her app. “I’m using it to collect information about what people’s favourite colours are, then what their favourite sport is. Each page displays a bar chart and change as you input a ‘vote’ for each thing,” she said. Watch as she demonstrates below.

Grace and Lauren have also made their own apps, but have chosen to create unique displays using different backgrounds to make them more interesting. “I like how you can learn new things and codes to make different things happen on the screen,” Lauren said. “We get ideas from others and it’s fun to help each other with their apps,” said Grace.

The children are thriving in this challenge and it was really fascinating and encouraging to watch them completely engaged with their learning and drawing on skills from other ‘traditional’ subject areas (like maths). When I asked Mr Burmeister if he gave them instructions or had a specific method that he wanted them to use he responded: “I had a picture in my mind, but they came up with a whole lot of ways that were simpler and equally – if not more – effective. I was so surprised”.

Developing what is now considered a ‘necessary skill’ is part and parcel of what we expect from a learning environment. What we don’t expect is the creative and open-minded way that our students approach this and many more projects they undertake. Don’t be surprised if the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates comes from our little school!

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