Justin Mattson Teaches Students to Code Before They Can Write!
“It’s nice that there are tools out there like Tynker Junior that are accessible to [young learners].” -Justin Mattson
|New Ulm Public Schools|
|New Ulm, MN|
The classroom is quiet. Suddenly, a student excitedly shouts, “Yeah!” They’ve just completed a challenge as part of the Tynker Junior Ocean Odyssey coding puzzle! Whether they’re completing the challenges in Tynker Junior or programming robots, kindergartners in Justin’s classroom are sure to have fun, learn critical thinking skills, and practice resilience. Justin, the Librarian and Media Specialist at the Washington Learning Center (a facility specifically for pre-K and kindergarten students) at New Ulm Public Schools in New Ulm, Minnesota, wears many hats: He administers the academic screening process as kids register for school, teaches coding, helps kids learn to read, and more! A former chemistry teacher, Justin used Tynker with 8th and 9th grade students and now uses Tynker Junior with his young learners. We had the opportunity to speak with Justin about how coding helps students develop problem-solving skills, academic abilities, and self-confidence! Read on to learn more about this inspiring Blue Ribbon Educator.
Some educators, Justin’s observed, feel that kids shouldn’t be taught to code until their reading and math skills have matured, but he has discovered that coding actually helps foster those very skills, along with other valuable cognitive skills: “I think those skills for working with technology, like sequential problem-solving, can help [students] even as they’re learning to read. You know, I have to take this word, I have to split it apart, just like if I’m solving a puzzle in coding. And look at the first part, put the different pieces together, and then we can move on to the next piece.” Justin talks more about sequential thinking in this video about the Washington Learning Center!
Justin’s found that Tynker and Tynker Junior are the right tools to help his students develop these kinds of coding and cognitive skills. When he started working at the Washington Learning Center, he felt that it was important for students to not just play computer games but actually learn programming skills: “Tynker was one of the options that works for them at that level.They’re in kindergarten, so there are kids coming in and starting to program and they’re not reading yet, so it has to be icon-based. It has to be things that they can figure out by trial and error. Tynker forms kind of a nice bridge to lead them in.” Tynker Junior’s interface, including the Tynker SmartPass QR codes that students use to log in, make it easy for Justin’s students to navigate the program.
In addition to helping Justin’s students build academic and programming skills, learning to code can also facilitate students’ confidence in their abilities: “Because I do all the screenings, I know where the kids are at with their reading and math skills. It doesn’t always align with the kids who are the first to solve the puzzles and be done and help their neighbors.” In this way, coding is an opportunity for students who perhaps don’t always perform well in traditional academic areas to have successful learning experiences.
We’re so excited to have Justin as part of our educator community! We’re sure that students will continue learning valuable skills like coding and problem-solving in Justin’s classes.
Read our previous post about Blue Ribbon Educator Ross Hartley, who uses robotics to teach students collaboration skills!