Reading Buddies? Sure! Coding Buddies? You bet!

Originally posted on ECOO.

During the Hour of Code, my students had opportunity to explore two apps: Scratch Jr and Hopscotch. They had never coded before in school, and most had never coded outside of school either. I encouraged them to self-regulate by choosing which app would be the best for them, and they got started. They were very excited and engaged throughout this free exploration, and we shared what we had created, which was the cherry on top of this coding cupcake!

So, what to do next? I had related details about the Hour of Code in our staff meeting and offered to send along resources if any colleagues wanted to participate. I got a few nibbles, but no commitments. I understood where they were coming from; learning another language or even a new app, can be intimidating. I find coding overwhelming at times, I imagine others do as well. Why would an educator want to jump in?

I figured that having students teach other students would take the teacher anxiety out of the mix. My class already had kindergarten Reading Buddies, so it was an easy leap to do Coding Buddies during Hour of Code week using Scratch Jr. We have since done 3 more sessions of Coding Buddies, with 2 more on the way. Five other classes are now coding!

This is what I learned through Coding Buddies:

  1. The sessions were engaging for both the learner buddies and my teacher buddies. While showing the learners how to use the app, my students inevitably found something new, which kept them motivated. The learners were focused and incredibly proud of their animations.
  2. My teacher buddies felt empowered. This mentoring relationship built capacity within our school, yes, but it also built social connections, empathy, patience and confidence. My students are better people having had this experience.
  3. It took the stress off the teachers. Because I promised the teachers they did not need to know how to use the app, the intimidation aspect diminished. And once they saw how engaged their students were, they started asking questions. “How can I use this regularly in my classroom?” “Can I assess this?” “Will they be able to use it independently?” It opened the door in an informal, low-anxiety way.
  4. Learner buddies showed their teachers what they had created and showed their teachers how they created it. Educators learning alongside their students. Teachers understanding that they are not the experts, and becoming comfortable with that. Powerful stuff.

My next steps are to offer continued mentoring support, and asking my students if they want to continue mentoring as well. We are learning coding through other apps that we can easily teach others how to use. Now that the door has been opened, I can refer them to the variety of resources available, including ECOO’s #ECOOcodes page.

How are you building capacity, sharing your learning in coding? What are your go-to resources coding resources?