MAT Blog

5 Free Apps to Help You Teach Coding

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 12, 2013 10:24:00 AM

Many of us have become so accustomed to clicking or dragging and dropping our way around digital media that we’ve completely forgotten the fact that someone (a coder) is the reason it all works so effortlessly for us.

Coding is literally everywhere we look, touch, tap and scroll—and considering our increasing reliance on digital technology, it’s safe to say that the world is going to need more code speakers to make it all work!

More and more educators realize this and have started using free applications to teach their students how to speak this language. If you’re not sure where or how to begin your coding lessons, check out these five free coding apps below.  

5 Free Apps to Help You Teach Coding

teach codingScratch can be used by anyone who wants to learn coding, but this app specifically targets eight to sixteen year olds by teaching them how to program interactive stories, games, and animations. Once students are satisfied with their final product, they can share it with the Scratch community or simply browse and connect with other users on the site.

teach coding 2The closest thing we can think of to compare Hopscotch to is a digital version of Legos. This app has been designed specifically for touch screens, so there’s no typing involved. All you do is drag and drop blocks of code and watch your characters spring into action.

teach coding 3Tynker is a bit like Scratch, but unlike most coding apps, Tynker has been designed with teachers in mind. The app features starter lesson plans, classroom management tools, and a dashboard where you can track your students’ progress. While you will have to upgrade your account to access the entire catalog of lesson plans, Tynker makes starter lessons available for free.

teach coding 4Daisy the Dinosaur can tear up a dance floor like you’ve never seen—but you’ll have to solve the challenges by dragging and dropping the right code into place to help her do it. This app is a fun and intuitive way to learn basics of object coding, sequencing and looping events.

teach coding 5The Fuzz family crashed their space ship on Smeeborg and only you can code them through the planet’s Technomazes. Kodable has been designed for students ages five and up and comes with 30 free levels of coding challenges.





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Tags: apps for educators, apps for teachers, technology in the classroom, digital tools that empower students, coding apps, teach coding

How to teach students to be critical consumers of information.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Feb 16, 2012 1:22:00 PM

Marygrove MAT covers a few important reasons why students need to be taught how to conduct Internet Research.The Information Revolution has given students immediate access to a vast collection of data. Now, simple key word searches return thousands of potential sources. Gone are the days when an astute librarian would teach students how to research printed media. We need to provide students with the skills to become critical consumers of Internet information. Right now.

Water flows through the easiest course. Students doing Internet research will most likely default to the simplest search method – they will open the first information returned on the list. Search engines will display data chronologically, or based on key word/subject relevance. But students must learn that someone else’s relevance or ‘most recent’ does not necessarily apply to their subject. Choice number 3,123 may be much more relevant to them than choice number one.

Who wrote it? Students must consider authorship, especially from Internet sources. Printed media is costly to produce and typically undergoes editorial quality control. However, information pulled from Internet sources does not necessarily receive the same review. We need to help students ‘validate’ information across several sources. Students should also be taught to recognize ‘primary sources’ with firsthand experience of the subject.

What was the author’s purpose for sharing? Perhaps the most important skill to teach students is how to recognize bias. Often, a reader’s opinion may be shaped by the presentation. The same facts can evoke many different perceptions. The author’s bias can be as important as the factual data presented. It is a key element of any message.

When was it written? Unless a student is researching a current event, ‘recent’ should not imply ‘relevant.’ The authoritative source may be many years old, and opinions, as well as inherent bias may change with time. Recognition and articulation of these sometimes-subtle shifts will separate your pupils from your scholars.

Wiki what? Data presented in a nonsubscriber clearinghouse does have value and should be considered. But information presented from these sources should never be accepted at face value. These sites provide a quick means to find out about most subjects, however authorship and validity are sometimes difficult to determine.

Teaching students to use technology is important. Teaching them what to do with the information that they discover is an educational imperative. The ability to assess web credibility and understand basic information architecture is an essential skill set for the 21st Century.

Margaret Reed earned an MAEd from Michigan State University and taught middle and high school history for 10 years. She has been a Marygrove Master in the Art of Teaching Mentor since 2009. As an outgrowth of her work in curriculum development at the secondary level, Margaret is pursuing further graduate studies with the goal of commencing a second career in instructional technology design.



Tags: e-learning, web research, digital tools that empower students

New Jersey District’s Laptop eLearning Initiative Empowers Students.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Nov 1, 2011 5:00:00 AM

Marygrove MAT at the NJEA Convention

New Jersey students with laptopLast spring, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) selected my district as one of its three Ed Tech Visitation Sites for 2011. During this three-day event, educational leaders from around the country observed how Pascack Valley Regional High School District has transformed teaching and learning through our 1:1 Laptop eLearning Initiative. Our guests had the chance to interact with students and teachers, and actually demo the digital tools that empower our students every day.

This visit was a great source of pride for the entire district. In my chemistry class, I wanted to show how we incorporated technology into a curricular standard. And naturally, I wanted to do it well.

My colleague, Natalie Macke and I developed a unit in which students create various ecosystems and then monitor their health through different readings (carbon dioxide levels, relative humidity, pH levels, etc.) Our three-gallon terrarium ecosystems—such as deserts, lakes, and brushlands— were all interlinked by ports; allowing students to see how one system affects another over time. It was an example of an authentic, hands-on learning assessment. The project’s laptop research capability allowed for a depth of material that could not have been achieved before. My students really enjoyed it, and they kept wondering why they weren’t getting graded!

As the NSBA visitors observed this project in our classroom, I spoke to them in small groups explaining the instructional and technological components involved.  As I presented my material, I remember referring to such terms as essential questions, anticipated misunderstandings, formative assessments and ongoing assessments.

Sure, I have used these strategies in the past, and could define a specific strategy if pressed—but the experience of my first four Marygrove College Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) courses have allowed me to speak about all of these concepts in a more coherent and organized manner. It made for a very professional presentation.

As I plan for future lessons, I find myself thinking in a way that uses my improved understanding of the concepts covered in these courses.

While I strive to avoid sounding like the "know-it-all" college student, I do tend to introduce MAT course terms as I collaborate with colleagues. I also appreciate that the section on Backward Design helped me prepare a much more effective assessment for my students.

-Paul Henry, Pascack Valley Regional High School District, Montvale, New Jersey
Second Career, 12-year Special Education Teacher with a focus on Science and Mathematics

Be sure to stop by our Marygrove College MAT booth at the NJEA Convention Nov. 10-11 in Atlantic City! We’d love to meet you.

Marygrove MAT at the NJEA Convention

Tags: 1:1 laptop elearning Initiative, students, teachers, digital tools that empower students

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