I began my career in the U.S. Army as an Electronic Warfare Signals Intelligence Analyst. After five years in the Army I completed an Electrician Apprenticeship and worked as an Industrial Electrician for the Chrysler Corporation. In addition to installing and maintaining electrical supply and safety equipment, I specialized in machine controls. This included programmable logic controllers and robot controllers for engine and auto/truck manufacturing. After eleven years working in this occupation, I left Chrysler and completed a degree in Education with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Finally, I started teaching Information Technology classes at Arbor Hills. This year is my fourteenth-year teaching.
I have gone back and fourth over the years using sites like “Scratch” and teaching HTML with a text editor. Both of these provide valuable problem solving and coding vocabulary for students. I started using CodeMonkey last year. Students seem to enjoy the gamification and I like how each problem to solve is called a challenge. The skill challenges are nice for higher achieving students and super hints helps lower achieving students. I also appreciate the use of correct programming concepts and the method in which they are applied sequentially. On the teacher side, this program saves time by including tutorial videos and grading challenges that can simply be entered into my gradebook. This program helps in promoting a student-centered classroom where I can allow students to work and solve problems with help when needed. I have used Beaver Achiever and Dodo Does Math for 6th graders. I have used Coding Adventure Part 1, along with the Sprite Animations Game Creation courses for 7th graders. I have used Banana Tales part 1, and reviewed Coding Adventure Part 1 to prepare for Part 2 with 8th graders.
Last year when students were learning from home, introducing CodeMonkey was a bit more challenging. This was also before they included the intro videos for each map of Coding Adventure, Part I. I used Screencastomatic to record more videos for both CodeMonkey and for other content then ever before! To say that having students in the classroom full time this year is much better for everyone involved is definitively an understatement!
It’s important to me that my students first use provided resources, along with deductive reasoning to solve problems. If they are still stuck on a problem, they know I am available to help! When integrating technology into lessons, I recommend flipping the classroom (inside the classroom) as much as possible to promote student centered project completion. Provide step by step directions, animations, and videos when possible. Then let students go about their business, using your resources as much or as little as needed. This allows you as the teacher to recognize both high and low achieving students and provide them with enrichment and/or intervention as needed.
I have taught HTML to junior high students using a text editor. Overall, they seemed to enjoy the sense of achievement when their code worked. However, this method of teaching coding can be much more frustrating for both the teacher and the student. This is especially true when teaching to the entire 8th grade rather than teaching the class as an elective at the high school level to students who chose to take the class. On the other hand, CodeMonkey provides the gamification and built in challenges that provide two distinct advantages. First, the videos and super hints help students who might not otherwise be choosing to take a coding class. Second, students who are high achievers in this area can take advantage of the skill challenges and to my experience they willingly help others who are struggling.