Coding is a New Language for All 6th Graders in Minnesota School District

Last Updated: August 29, 2014 4:41 pm
Coding is a New Language for All 6th Graders in Minnesota School District

Coding is a New Language for All 6th Graders in Minnesota School District

Elk River School District is well aware of the benefits of learning coding in today’s increasingly tech savvy world. Troy Anderson, Manager of Instructional Technology, spoke with us about their process for selecting and rolling out a curriculum that met their district technology goals.

What made you decide to upgrade your technology course to teach coding?

With app development becoming a hot topic in our world today, we felt we really needed to update our technology class to make it more practical. We want students to be able to see that when they leave school there is a market out there for the skills they’ve learned.

We try to give students a well-rounded education and coding is a new language — like German, French, Spanish — that kids need to know to be successful when they leave.

Coding inspires students to be creative and develop problem solving skills, and we were not always able to incorporate these aspects in our traditional technology courses. I think coding is really going to open the doors for us.

What do you want to do with coding in your district? What do you want kids to learn?

Most of the time, students think there is an exact step you have to take to get to an end. With coding, what I think we will find is that students will learn that they need to try different things and experiment a little bit. This hands-on discovery can be an eye-opening experience for students. But more importantly, the whole idea of exploring through trial and error is a real life skill with which students need to achieve proficiency.

What were some challenges you faced when selecting a coding curriculum?

The biggest challenge was finding a comprehensive curriculum that wasn’t too hard or too easy for our students. We evaluated a number of programs that would have had to be tailored to meet our needs. We also thought about creating our own curriculum, but we don’t have the time or flexibility to create a comprehensive program or train teachers. We selected Tynker because it was a one-stop shop, with a turnkey curriculum that would make it easy for all of our teachers to get started. Tynker also provides an easy path to learning mainstream coding, such as Javascript, when the time comes.

We were looking for a resource that was really going to guide our teachers through the process and provide students with the scaffolding needed to learn coding skills in a structured way. As we looked through a lot of the products out there, they didn’t have the curriculum and type of support that Tynker provides. That was a big decision factor for us.

What were some of the other reasons that your district chose Tynker?

In addition to the daily lesson plans, one thing we found particularly helpful were the built-in help resources. Before even starting a session, a teacher can refer to the lesson plan which includes details on lesson objectives and concepts, instructional videos, and even review questions. There are other coding programs out there, but with some of them you need to have more background knowledge and training.

Tynker also has an integrated grade book and a tracking system for students, to see where they are in terms of individual lessons. Our teachers are going to see a few hundred kids a day, so this will be a valuable tool to reduce all the daily work that teachers go through to let them focus more on students.

In terms of setup, Tynker has Google Apps for Education integration and a user friendly interface for our students to access the program. This means our teachers don’t have to worry about manually typing in kids names. The kids can join their virtual classrooms using their school-provided Google logins. This was a big plus for us.

As we evaluated our options, we could see that Tynker had by far the easiest implementation and most engaging and comprehensive curriculum, so we decided to move forward with it. We are very excited for the upcoming school year.

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About Tynker

Tynker enables children to learn computer programming in a fun and imaginative way. More than 60 million kids worldwide have started learning to code using Tynker.