IW offers coding for kindergarten

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2016

By Stephen Faleski

Special to the News-Herald

Isle of Wight County Schools have added new curriculum for their 2016-2017 academic year that teaches students basic computer coding as early as kindergarten.

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According to Michael Lombardo, Isle of Wight’s director of STEM and performance-based learning, and Heather Greer, Isle of Wight’s coordinator of K12 science, who presented an overview of the program to the School Board on Thursday, the curriculum is being provided to students free and will be divided into four courses that span grades K-12.

In May, the division hired five coding teachers, facilitated their training in Scratch Jr., an elementary programming language, offered by WHRO, and equipped their classrooms with computers, iPads and Ollie robots.

According to Greer, the four courses will be based on the Code.org code studio program and will align with the instructional standards of the Computer Science Teachers Association and the International Society for Technology in Education.

Beginner students will start with universal logic and basic coding concepts using a block language called “Blockly,” which uses a series of puzzles. The introductory courses will include both kinesthetic, unplugged lessons and web-based activities to ensure that students are not in front of a computer screen at all times.

Course one, which is intended for children in grades K-3, will teach reading, sequences, loops and events, collaboration with others, problem-solving, perseverance and basic internet safety. Course two, intended for children in grades 4-5, will introduce them to conditionals, algorithms, binary code, debugging and societal impacts of computing.

Students 8 and up who have completed course two may move onto course three, which will expose them to problem decomposition, functions, nested loops and conditionals, digital citizenship and Internet transmission methods.

Course four, intended for children 10 and up who have completed course three, will teach algorithmic problem solving, abstraction, variables, for loops, functions with parameters, and binary code.

Greer added that students will also have the opportunity to create block-based code for robots using the  provided iPads, which connect to the robots via Bluetooth. The types of robots that will be used include Ollies, Spheros, Dash and Dot and Ozobots.

At the middle school level, students will be introduced to the Swift Playground app, designed by Apple as its version of Code.org, which will facilitate the students transfer from block programming to using the syntax in Xcode, the language used for writing Apple iOS apps.

School Board member Vicky Hulick, who represents the Newport District, was very excited about the program.

“These are first and second graders explaining to me how to code, and I think that’s amazing,” she said. “My child comes home excited after coding.”

According to Lombardo and Greer, the division’s high schools both already offer courses in programming and advanced programming, and will continue to do so.