Paige Besthoff: The ‘How’ of Teaching Coding Early
“I don’t teach my students to be computer programmers. I teach my students the 4Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Tynker helps me achieve my goal.” – Paige Besthoff
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Paige Besthoff, Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator and teacher at E.R. Appleby School in New Jersey, believes that early exposure to coding is key. When the Hour of Code first launched, both Paige and her students were enthusiastic. One female high school senior, who previously did not know what to do after graduation, even decided to study computer science at a local community college. In that moment, Paige realized that getting students started with computer science in high school wasn’t good enough: it needed to begin much earlier. She transferred to the elementary level and since then has focused on preparing her students for their future. Read on to learn more about how Paige teaches coding to elementary students!
Hands-on learning is vital to knowledge retention. That’s why Paige gives students opportunities to work together on projects such as dissecting old computers. Leading up to this project, students researched the external and internal aspects of computers and made a glossary of terms. 4th grade students dissected the computers, and 3rd graders looked at and touched the inside components. And it’s not just hardware that students explore through kinesthetic activities: Paige helps students learn about programming as they sing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to understand how loops work, team up with others in relay races to solve computing problems, and code robots. In Paige’s classroom, the maxim ‘If you can dream it, you can make it’ always applies, and here students learn that they can add ‘computer programming’ to their toolbox of ‘making’ equipment.
For Paige, teaching coding isn’t only about imparting technical knowledge to students, as important as this is. Along with their technical knowledge, students also need to know how to problem-solve, think outside the box, and work together to solve problems. In other words, Paige values the 4 Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. She uses coding as a tool to help students build these skills: “My students learn to create and communicate through Tynker.” She has also used coding to facilitate collaboration across learning levels. For one year’s Hour of Code, high school students and former Spotswood Public Schools students who were studying computer science at the university level joined Appleby students to create algorithms and debug computer programs.
Just as coding can be taught across grade levels, it’s also a great tool for helping students of various learning abilities within a single grade level. According to Paige, “Computer science provides the ultimate differentiation learning experience.” That’s why her students use platforms like Tynker to tap into their individual strengths: “Not every student is comfortable speaking in public or able to write a 100-word story or report, but every student can get their ideas across when they learn to use Tynker. My students use Tynker to create book reports, history presentations, and science explanations in their classroom. They use Tynker to retell stories and create math and vocabulary games.” And when it comes to evaluating the tools they’re using, Tynker ranks high on students’ list: “Given a choice, 90% of my students choose coding in Tynker over other coding websites.”
We’re thrilled to have Paige Besthoff as part of our Tynker community! We can’t wait to see how the students she is teaching now will become the technology innovators and leaders of the future.
Read our previous post about Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator Sue Hartman, who uses drones and tools like Tynker to bring authentic learning to students in Ohio!