Welcome to Meet the Teacher – CodeMonkey’s blog segment where teachers from all over the world share their experiences on what it’s like being an educator. Today’s post features Oznur Dalkiz-Akviranli, a K-5 Technology Applications Teacher at Harmony Science Academy Sugar Land in Sugar Land, Texas
My journey with Technology started back in high school at the beginning of the millennium. I went to a vocational school and studied Computer Science. I was introduced to computer programming by Turbo Pascal and kept coding in Visual Basic, Delphi, and SQL. What I liked most in those school years was to design educational animations by Macromedia Flash (it is Adobe Flash now) and writing Action Script to animate the characters. Then, I resumed my education studying Technology Education and Instructional Design in college. After earning my bachelor’s, I had a great opportunity to teach at Harmony Public Schools. Harmony’s unique project-based learning (PBL) model, STEM Students On the Stage (SOS), equips students with the 21st-century technology needs and skills. I am so happy to be a part of this personalized learning model and learn more and more through ongoing developmental opportunities that are offered to all teachers here. So, I have been teaching Technology Applications since 2012 from Kinder to 5th graders. Teaching technology, especially through PBL with coding to these little minds is the best feeling I have ever had. Watching my 5-year-old kindergarten students make block-based coding and create PBL projects by designing games at an early age has been extremely rewarding.
I should admit that I hesitated to teach Game Builder to my students in the beginning. It probably happens to most of us. At first, when you do not know something well, it looks strange and challenging for you. I was in that mode and did not want to try it with my kids because I did not know exactly how to support them effectively. On the other hand, there were high achieving students in my class who needed more enrichment opportunities and wanted to learn more than what my standard curriculum offered. Game Builder was a great tool for them. We all struggled in the first 5-10 exercises to figure out how to design our games. But seeing the monkey jumping and getting bananas, students became so happy and eager to do more of it. Of course, I had some hard times with some of the students. The concept was abstract for them to understand and also they were not always great at reading and following the instructions.
I think the Game Design Course is a good self-guided tool for early coding learners. According to my short experience, the only thing I showed my students was how to read the instructions and apply them to their coding design. Once they grabbed the concept, they did the exercises back to back and even created different games by getting inspired from the Discovery part of CodeMonkey. Most of them completed the Frogger Game Creation Course at home during COVID-19 distance learning without in-person support from me, because they already knew how to use it and completed Platformer before.
I want to share a conversation I had with two of my students. One of them, Michael, is great at coding and has created lots of games in the Game Builder course. His games look like Mario Bros. The other student also wanted to create games as Michael did, but his attempts were not successful. During the COVID-19 distance learning period, I got a message on the distance learning portal from this student. He said “Mrs. Dalkiz, Michael stole my game’s main sprite. Please tell him not to use it in his game. That is mine.” I liked their competitive spirit and yet how they learn from each other. These two guys are so funny and always make me laugh out loud, even from a distance.
Teaching coding to little kids is not easy at first but it is priceless to see their masterpieces melt your heart and make you proud. If you set your mind to it, you can definitely do it. The motto sticks here really well: No pain, no gain! Research shows that coding helps students improve their critical and analytical thinking as well as their problem-solving skills. CodeMonkey carries this mission and provides teachers with all the resources we need. Also, STEM SOS PBL model which is an innovative teaching and learning approach where game-based and personalized learning are integrated with project-based learning through text-based coding. We only need to pursue and encourage our students to be creative. I always tell my students “Do not play any games during Tech App class. You are to only play your own games that you created. Also, email your game link to me and your classmates and let us play your game, too.” By publicly sharing their work, not only my students see and play each other’s games, but also other kids from all around the world do the same. This is a perfect way to integrate the kids into a little game network and portal.