Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.
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7 Ways to Teach Students to Think Like a Coder

7 Ways to Teach Students to Think Like a Coder

By Tor Moström and Johan Wendt

Coding is the language of the future and if your students don’t learn sooner than later, they risk struggling as they grow into college and their careers. If you’re not ready to bring coding into your classroom just yet, start by teaching students how to think like a coder. The mindset of a coder is valuable both in and out of the classroom, teaching students the importance of problem solving and that it’s okay to fail.

Use these seven ideas, from two world-renowned coders, in your classroom this week. Students will love the “teacher-robot” exercise and playing with new coding apps.

More: 10 STEM Apps for Young Students

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Break Things

The most important part about thinking like a coder is dropping the fear of breaking things or doing something wrong. Mistakes are part of programmers’ lives and errors teach us something. Programming could be really simple or really challenging, like any other subject in the curriculum.

2. Use Algorithmic Thinking

To think like a coder, students need to use algorithmic thinking. How do we go from here to there with the tools we have at hand? A great way of showing this to students is to let them program the teacher, and have the teacher act as a robot.

By letting the students give instructions to the teacher-robot to, let’s say draw a line on the white-board with a pen that is placed on the desk in the back, we show that you need to be specific about what you want the robot to do. This exercise also shows that an algorithm is like a recipe, a Lego blueprint, or an IKEA description, and we can easily introduce bugs if we’re not careful.

When we program a computer, we don’t use human language, but use a language that is exact, has fewer words, and is perfectly unambiguous. A programming language is a language that both humans and computers (Simplification) can decode.

More: How to Bring STEAM Into Your Classroom

3. Read our book, Curly Bracket – The Hidden Code.

Curly Bracket – The Hidden Code is the first book in a new graphic novel series created by Johan Wendt, Tor Moström, and Peter Bergting. This 100-page hardback tells the story of Curly Bracket and is created to get student (8-13 years old) to think like coders. This is a combination textbook and graphic novel that builds students’ computational thinking skills.

4. Solve Problems Together

A programmer solves a lot of problems, and to become good at something you need to practice. Find computer related problems like, sorting, filtering, searching and solve the problems together. A great problem is the classic, ”I’m thinking about a number between 1 and 100” and the responder is only allowed to answer lower, higher or correct.

Let students play this game, while recording how many guesses they need to find the correct number. Then discuss different strategies and let the students explore which one is the best. Extremely simplified, this is part of Google’s mysterious algorithm and the most effective algorithm is called binary search.

More: 10 Math Apps That Teach Math Concepts

5. Introduce a Drag n Drop Language

Introduce, for example, Scratch. If the students understand the concept of algorithmic thinking, understanding scratch should be no problem. Let them program games. The children will get a feel for a programming language’s different components like variables, flow control like if, for, while statements and key-board inputs, etc.

Find Scratch, and other coding games to teach yourself and your students:

6. Move Your Programs To the Physical World

Programming a computer is fun, but to program something that exists in the physical world is even more fun. A great way of programming physical objects is to take a look at the Arduino Microcontroller Kit. There are a lot of resources online and teachers all over the world are using it in their classrooms. The software needed to program the micro controllers is free and easy to understand and use.

7. Contact a Local Tech Company

Some people have the perception that programmers are lone wolfs, don’t like the sun, and drink a lot of jolt-cola. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth; we love to show, talk, and discuss problems and to learn. Contact local tech companies

and invite their programmers to the classroom. Let them describe what kind of work they do and what they like about their job to inspire students.

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