Tynker is a platform that can be flexibly integrated into a classroom or school. While some schools use it in their formal computer programming curriculums, other schools use it to enhance learning in classes like math, science, art and so forth. Still others have used it in extracurricular coding clubs, like this Lunchtime Club. Kids from across grades get together in a room, and experiment – there is no formal structure or curriculum, just a gentle direction, and the rest is up to the kids’ imagination. Read more on how this school successfully runs this club.
Smita Kolhatkar is the Educational Technology TOSA at Barron Park Elementary School in Palo Alto. She uses Scratch and Tynker in her school’s lunchtime programming club, which sparked similar programs at other schools in the Bay Area.
School: Barron Park Elementary School, Palo Alto
Using Tynker since: October, 2012
Total Number of Students on Tynker: 93
Number of Projects created by students using Tynker: 283
Q: Can you describe the programming club that you run?
A: Sure. We run the club during lunch three times a week. Around 20-40 students come in, grab a computer, and start working on their projects. They have a lot of fun.
Using programming platforms like Tynker is a low-stress way for me to teach kids how to code. What I like about Tynker is that it’s very intuitive for students to use. Most can get it up and running with little help from me.
Q: What are the benefits of introducing Tynker as a lunchtime club?
A: Getting the program started during lunch is a lot easier than trying to structure it within a full classroom schedule. This was also my entry into teaching computer science — I wanted to help kids learn without relying on the classroom teachers, who already have a very busy schedule.
An added benefit is that you’re able to give kids more freedom. You don’t need to create a lot of structure for the lunchtime club. Students are able to create projects that interest them, instead of following a strict curriculum. We want the children to see this as a fun learning activity, not a task that they are forced to do.
Q: So what is your role at Barron Park Elementary? What is your background?
A: Currently, I am the Educational Technology TOSA at Barron Park Elementary. Here I work to integrate technology into the curriculum in meaningful ways, as well as to facilitate differentiation.
Prior to this, I taught the fourth and fifth grades. Before turning to education, I worked at high-tech companies like Oracle for fifteen years.
Q: How about your students? Did they come in knowing how to code?
A: There was only one kid who had had any experience with Scratch. The majority of students had no experience with coding. It’s funny — many of the parents work as developers in tech companies in the Silicon Valley, but few know that there are programming platforms like Tynker or Scratch that are geared towards their children.
Fortunately, the students picked it up very quickly. While a few first- and second-grade students needed extra support, the older kids are able to figure out how to use Tynker on their own.
Q: What are the kids making?
A: All the students are creating projects on subjects that interest and fascinate them. One of the boys is trying to build a simulation of an Apple computer. It’s very realistic. He’s even included little details in his project, like the power button on the keyboard of a Mac. There are some other really interesting projects as well.
Do you want to start a Tynker lunchtime club at your school? It’s really easy. Here’s a quick guide to getting it up and running:
1. Sign up (its free!) at Tynker.com. It will only take minutes to set up and start using your Tynker educator account.
2. Find a classroom where you can host the club, and publicize your club to the teachers and students at your school, preferably across grade levels.
3. Set up a classroom on Tynker called “Tynker Lunch Club,” add students, and assign projects according to your students’ skill level (if student skill/grade level varies a lot, you could even create separate classrooms so you can assign different levels of projects).
4. That’s it! Your club should be up and running. Don’t forget — share your students’ projects in your showcase!