Teacher Recommended: Best Websites to Learn Coding

The following is a guest blog written by a CodeMonkey Teacher Ambassador.

Hello! My name is Javier F. Aguilar. I am a technology applications and computer science teacher at the East Fort Fort Worth Montessori Academy. My experience in education is 6 years, however before working in a school environment I was in corporate technology for over 18 years. One of my favorite hobbies is to continually learn computer science applications and teach our elementary students at our school. Since 2014, when I attended my first Code.org training in Austin, TX, I have been  engaged with the coding and computer science topics. I must admit that I consider myself a true complete geek that loves working with and on computers since the age of twelve. I have enjoyed networking with other educators like me that love computer science, STEM, and coding. I am a huge LEGO, Minecraft and gamification fan.

I would like to share with you some of the coding websites that I currently use in my curriculum with great success.

  • Code.org – This web-based resource assists teachers from any grade level to begin teaching computer science. All curriculum from code.org is free and accessible for teachers and students. As an elementary teacher, I use the CS Fundamentals courses (Courses A, B, C, D, E, F, Pre-reader express course, and the express course). However, I have adapted the Computer Science Discoveries course that originally was for middle schools to teach my 5th grade students at our elementary school. This resource works in any platform and operating system. 
  • Bits and Bricks – This LEGO game assist students to use and apply their computational thinking, mathematics, reading, and problem solving skills with our “Bits-LEGO robot” to move from point A to point B in the puzzles in a playful and engaging way.
  • RobotPuzzle .- I had the opportunity to contact the creator of the RobotPuzzle who told me that this program in Java Script originally was created to teach computer science to a daughter of one of his friends. The coding resource protagonist is a robot that moves with commands in the puzzle avoiding obstacles presented in the game. 
  • BotLogic – BotLogic.us is an educational puzzle game that challenges kids and adults to tackle complex logic problems while teaching valuable programming concepts. Using simple commands (and eventually code), players program their bots to navigate through progressively challenging mazes.
  • Scratch – This language that uses the block-based and drop concept is a great tool for students to understand the fundamentals of computer science terminology i.e. algorithm, function, sprites, loops, variables, etc. creating their own games and projects. 
  • CodeMonkey – This web-based resource that uses text coding is a great opportunity for students to actually start typing the commands to make the little monkey move through his adventures and eat a lot of bananas. I am proud to be a code monkey ambassador because I truly trust in this engagement products that assist our students to think outside of the box. The CodeMonkey Jr. version available actually in Android and IOS operating system is an excellent resource for PK-2nd grade students to start in early stages learning computer science in a fun way. I witnessed since 2014 when I started using this resource how our students understand the computer science concepts and jump from block to texting coding. I like that CodeMonkey is always updating their curriculum in CoffeeScript and Python programming languages. 
CodeMonkey Jr. Best coding websites for kids
  • CS First with Google – This free computer science curriculum makes coding easy for a teacher and fun to learn for students. As an educator you can access or request “materials for your club or class to teach CS First”  Materials are sent to you at no cost by Fedex. However, if you prefer to begin teaching or learning this curriculum quickly – you can download the materials FREE from the CS First website. CS First uses Scratch as a platform with different learning levels from beginners to advanced students with interesting topics to learn.
  • Tynker – This coding system has different activities for everyone i.e. Barbie, Candy Quest, Space Quest, Monster High, Minecraft, and Star Wars.  Additionally, it challenges students to move from beginner to advanced projects. I personally use only the free version available with the block based coding options, however the paid version has available courses for students that are ready to learn text base coding using JavaScript or Python programming languages.
  • Bitsbox – I started using this learning coding system with my advanced computer club students after school when I noticed that they are ready for accelerated challenges moving from Scratch – block language to using JavaScript language, using the text based projects or applications in real time. I remember using the trading cards that allow learners to type the commands and finalize a game or application with some lines of coding. I have personally applied for a grant to allow our school to order the Bitsbox: levels 1-12 for educators that incorporates into my curriculum and is utilized with my 2nd to 5th grade students with great success. I applied and became an ambassador for this company. I love the platform that Bitsbox uses which is text based coding so students can move to the next level with the  programming language – JavaScript. 
  • Processing – This programming language uses Java language commands and instructions as an excellent text based tool to assist students to create visual animated projects. I have used this particular resource for my 4th and 5th grade students. The way I utilize this software is to copy and paste one of the examples that processing has available for everyone and then I edit it – taking a semicolon, square bracket, curly bracket or taking off a close parenthesis to challenge my students to debug and fix the syntax errors in the project.
  • Codemoji – Codemoji’s computer science curriculum is a visual resource that uses “emojis” to assist students on how to learn the basics of web development and coding, including HTML, CSS, and Javascript, in a fun and easy way. I use this resource for our 4th and 5th grade students due to its text based coding. I like how the process of learning is with examples, trial and error. 
  • Hopster Coding Safari for Kids – This past year I researched in the App Store and found this great application that assists my PK, Kinder and 1st grade students to do pre-coding logic game levels and animal characters in a fun way. I emailed the creators of this company and humbly requested to see if they could possibly make this great application web based to make it available for more students.  As a Title I school, we are not fortunate enough to have iPads for all our students. Currently our school only has a total of 8 iPads for 259 students; however, the application developers responded recently to me that maybe in the future a web-based option may become available. I do rotate the iPads during my classes to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn this application and other applications that only currently work in the iPad environment.

Continually, I like to check in my local library books, videos of programming, and coding that assist me in getting ideas for our elementary students.  Some of the great books that I have ordered and I highly recommend that you read are the following: 

How to Be a Coder: Learn to Think like a Coder with Fun Activities, then Code in Scratch 3.0 Online (Careers for Kids) by Kiki Prottsman

Code Your Own Games!: 20 Games to Create with Scratch Hardcover – March 7, 2017 by Max Wainewright 

Learn CS Concepts with Scratch: Create exciting games and animation in Scratch and learn Computer Science principles (Book series on Learning computer programming and CS principles) by Abhay B Joshi

Get Coding!: Learn HTML, CSS & JavaScript & Build a Website, App & Game Paperback – August 1, 2017 by Young Rew

Advanced Scratch Programming: Learn to design programs for challenging games, puzzles, and animations 1.0 Edition by Abhay B Joshiired State 

Creative Coding in Python: 30+ Programming Projects in Art, Games, and More Paperback – December 18, 2018 by Sheena Vaidyanathan

I would like to finalize this blog article by encouraging you to include any of these coding resources to your curriculum or create an after school club to spark computer science learning for all students at all ages. You can follow me on twitter @javierfaguilar where I always share free or new coding resources.

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