“I’m constantly blown away by how much the kids have embraced coding.”
I am: Jenny Anderson, STEM Coordinator at Casita Center for Technology, Science and Math in San Diego.
Using Tynker Since: August, 2014
How did Tynker address the challenges your program faced?
As the STEM coordinator responsible for developing curriculum across the entire school (200+ kids), I wanted to introduce a programming platform that could seamlessly be integrated into the curriculum across all grade levels. Getting started with Tynker was really straightforward and we had the entire school setup in no time – in different classrooms with ready-made programming lesson plans for each grade. I was amazed to see the level of engagement with kindergarteners and fifth graders alike.
A key to success was Tynker’s ability to help me manage the program from an administrative perspective. As a teacher, I found the automatic assessment tools really useful because I was able to see exactly where each student was as they mastered each programming concept. I could understand at a high level which children were having trouble, who needed support, and what areas we needed to work on to personalize students’ learning.
How are you incorporating Tynker into your STEM program?
Lots of ways! The kids can’t seem to get enough.
- Technology Class: All second through fifth graders spend 30 minutes of assigned time each week coding on the Tynker platform, although most of the students continue to code at home or in their homeroom class, which is amazing to see. Even Kindergarteners and 1st graders are exposed to coding with the Tynker game-based iPad app.
- Genius Bar: Each classroom has a “genius bar” where students who have shown a special interest and ability in coding assist other students with their projects. Without even realizing it, kids are becoming teachers and guides (and loving it), which is one of the most effective ways to reinforce a concept and promote deeper learning.
- After-School Lab: We have a tech innovation lab that focuses on different types of hands-on work and software engineering. It’s a voluntary activity that kids can sign up for that’s quickly become very popular among the kids!
What are they making in the tech innovation lab?
One fourth grader made an animated screensaver complete with music and intricate patterns, while younger students made some clever and creative knock-knock jokes. A fifth grader created an animated break dancer, overlayed hip hop music, and added a function where you could move the dancer around the screen. I love seeing the variety of students projects and the incredible amount of thought, detail, and creativity that goes into each one. Every project is different and every project is a reflection of their own interests and personality.
How have your kids changed?
It has been incredible to see kids collaborate and create together. If they’re working on a game, for example, they intuitively follow the process of getting ideas out in the open, discussing them, and figuring out a way to make the variables work together, whether it be through discussion as a group or through research. When they encounter obstacles or get feedback from younger students (aka their “test subjects”), they work together to find a solution and fix the mistakes. I can’t imagine a better way to practice effective brainstorming, problem-solving, and teamwork!
What has been the most significant impact?
We have a fourth grader, Bob, who struggled academically, was reading at a first grade level and in the special ed program. His technical and coding abilities, on the other hand, were incredibly strong and he quickly established himself as a leader as part of the genius bar in his class, volunteering his services to assist other students with their projects every chance he got and, in the process, working on his own math, science and communication skills. Needless to say, his academic and personal growth since starting with Tynker have been phenomenal. I’m constantly blown away by how much the kids have embraced coding.
I’m also thrilled at the teachers’ and administrators’ enthusiasm for the program. In fact, at a recent district-wide digital learning retreat, I asked a number of students to present their Tynker projects to the group, followed by a student-led tutorial of the platform. The teachers could not believe how easy and intuitive the Tynker platform was. Seeing how enthusiastic the kids were about programming made them realize, then and there, that this kind of program could absolutely be implemented in their classrooms with great success. I hope that all teachers and administrators at schools everywhere see that coding is possible for everyone, and that coding is contagious!
Can Tynker enhance STEM at your school? Let us know how we can help!