Tag Archives: stem

New Release! Programming Project for STEM Classrooms

In response to the recent spotlight on building STEM skills, TechnoKids is announcing the first of a new and innovative series of computer science technology projects designed to teach programming learning objectives.

Teach Coding

programming

Use Scratch and TechnoCode to teach programming skills

The first of these projects is TechnoCode, just released for junior and middle school grades. The focus of the all new TechnoCode project is to spark an interest in coding. Using Scratch, students become young programmers. They learn computational thinking as they construct a collection of scripts to develop animated scenes, mazes, interactive stories, and games. Additional activities challenge students to create artwork, compose music, construct a diorama, and more! Jam packed with fun programming activities, TechnoCode is ideal for students new to Scratch – a popular, free program that uses graphical blocks to teach logical reasoning.

Programming Fun

Through guided discovery and exploration, TechnoCode teaches students to build algorithms that sequence commands, events, loops, and conditions. After each activity, they complete coding journal logs to reflect on their learning, track their progress, express feelings, and celebrate successes.

coding and programming with Scratch

Scratch is a free program to teach coding developed by MIT. Graphic blocks are stacked to create scripts for animations, games, stories, and more!

In TechnoCode, students follow illustrated, step-by-step instructions to learn how to:

  • Use programming terminology and understand the role of a programmer
  • Code a scene with characters, a backdrop, movement, and sound
  • Build an animated aquarium
  • Design a one-of-a-kind maze game
  • Construct an animated story about a magical place
  • Plan and develop a unique game with timing and a scoring system

Learning is chunked and scaffolded: skills learned in each of the six sessions are reviewed and extended in following sessions. Challenges and extension activities offer optional enrichment opportunities. Junior and middle school teachers can elect to complete as many of the projects as time, grade level, and curriculum learning standards require.

programming with Scratch

Students learn computational thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and creativity as they build scripts.

Foster Digital Citizenship Skills

The collaborative element of Scratch is its online community.

To get inspired, Scratchers can browse a huge gallery of sample interactive stories, music, art, animations, and games. They can remix: start with a project someone else has coded and shared, and then add their own creative touches. When the remixed project is uploaded, Scratch automatically credits both the originator and the contributor, thereby promoting the essential skill of citing the source. The See Inside button on any shared Scratch project allows others to view the code to ‘see how it’s done’, an ideal learning opportunity. Finally, students can share their own work and invite ‘likes’ and comments.

Experiencing success and support of other budding programmers is a key ingredient to building enthusiasm for computer science.

Prepare Students for Jobs

Empower students with the essential, real-world skills they will need in the workplace of tomorrow. Both STEM and CTE – Career and Technical Education – highlight the value of preparing young people with technical as well as employability skills. Ideal skillsets include a diverse combination of higher-level thinking, technology, and interpersonal proficiencies. Teaching programming can do that. TechnoCode is a fun, challenging series of hands-on activities to master a foundational set of computer science standards. As they achieve success, students become enthusiastic, confident problem solvers – critical skills to make them “future proof”.

TechnoCode – STEM, CTE, and ICT Project to Integrate Programming

TechnoCode has everything an educator needs to teach beginning coding skills to students: a teacher guide and student workbook in pdf format, sample completed projects to inspire young imaginations, planning sheets with questions to help design scripts, coding journal logs for reflection, and assessment tools to evaluate student work. Hook tech-savvy young people. Equip your students with practical, creative, and authentic twenty-first century skills.

programming and coding

Computational Thinking and Scratch

It is important to develop computational thinking. In my last blog about computer science learning standards, I wrote about the benefits of students learning to program. Coding was once thought to be a mysterious, obscure skill restricted to a few masterminds. But in light of the STEM demands of the future job world, it’s now considered the ‘new literacy’. Learning to code prepares students for the challenges of the careers of tomorrow. Not only are computers an integral part of daily life but learning how to engage with and control them is a powerful leverage that we can give our young people.

Additionally, programming teaches skills that apply to all jobs: logical or computational thinking, flexibility, persistence, problem-solving, confidence, creativity, and collaboration. Best of all, it’s challenging and it’s fun!

What is computational thinking?

computational thinking like a programmer

Teach students to think in sequential steps like a programmer

Computational thinking is the ability to break down a big problem into smaller sub-problems and to arrange them in an appropriate sequence. It’s a step-by-step procedure that is the foundation of science hypotheses and experiments, diagnoses such as medical evaluations and mechanical problems, and even tying up shoelaces. This cognitive, methodical approach to problem solving is the basis of algorithmic thinking: define the steps to complete the task.

How can computational thinking be taught?

computational thinking

Now that there are graphical programming tools such as Scratch and ScratchJr to teach coding to very young students, we should prepare them to think in a sequential, logical way. Before turning to the computer, break down some simple daily tasks into steps.

Here are some offline activities to try. Have students list all the ‘baby steps’, in the correct order, to complete a task. Then you may want to put their lists to the test by having one student instruct another to follow the steps literally as directed!

  • drink from a juice box
  • go out the door
  • put toothpaste on a toothbrush
  • make a peanut butter sandwich
  • get on a bicycle
  • add 2 two-digit numbers
  • shuffle playing cards
  • take out the garbage
  • get out of bed
  • blow up a balloon

They will soon find that ‘Get a balloon and blow’ might have the tester holding a balloon in his hand but blowing into the air. The steps should be broken down into something like this:

  1. Pick up a balloon.
  2. Place the open end of the balloon between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Put the open end of the balloon into your mouth.
  4. Blow into the balloon.
  5. Squeeze the open end of the balloon shut.
  6. Continue to blow until the balloon is full of air.
  7. Squeeze the open end of the balloon shut.
  8. Tie the open end of the balloon into a knot.

Use natural language first

Scratch cat

Before using the blocks in Scratch have students explain, in their own words, what steps are needed to perform a task.

For example, to make Scratch the cat walk and talk to the viewer, use natural language to list the instructions to the cat:

  1. Begin.
  2. Then take 10 steps forward.
  3. Say “Hello!”

After the steps have been explained verbally or written in natural language sentences, then go to the Scratch program and find the coding blocks that will perform those steps.

computational thinking

Preparing students to think logically and plan their ideas using their own words offline first will ensure success as they begin to construct code.

Scratch lessons and computational thinking.

Develop computational thinking skills using Scratch lessons in TechnoCode.

Are you looking for programming lessons for kids?

TechnoCode, a STEM project, includes activities that emphasize computational thinking. The lesson plans use Scratch to build games, puzzles, and animations. The instructional goal is to have students think like programmers. Easy to follow instructions with natural language help students to understand coding. Resources include planning sheets with guiding questions, coding challenges to differentiate learning, and coding journals.

Computer Science Learning Standards

As educators, we agree that STEM education matters. The focus on science, technology, engineering, and math not only prepares young people for the jobs of tomorrow, but also builds the vital skills of design, logical thinking, problem solving, and trouble shooting. We recognize the need for students to develop computer literacy but more than just being confident users of technology, we want to encourage a culture of innovation. This has in turn generated a specific interest in computer science and programming as an essential component of the technology curriculum.

computer science scratch

Schools have recognized the need for students in all grades to develop a foundation in programming. The appearance of robotics in classrooms, coding clubs, and graphical, block-based programming languages such as Scratch, ScratchJr, and Blockly allow even primary students to develop an interest in being builders and creators of technology.

So now we’re committed to the value of computer science in our classrooms. But what exactly are the fundamental and critical skills that we should be teaching? A set of core guidelines can help teachers to develop computer science curriculum that introduces the fundamental concepts, engages students to develop an interest in coding, and fosters computational thinking, creativity, perseverance, collaboration, and all the other valuable skills that programming provides. Some schools, school boards, and states have written their own standards but if teachers don’t have a required set of learning standards, there are many resources available.

Computer Science Standards

Here’s a list of sites with computer science standards. Is there one that works for you? Or, combine ideas and create your own.

Computer Science Teachers Association

  • clear, user-friendly set of learning standards
  • 3 levels: k-6, 6-9, 9-12
  • Strands: Computational Thinking, Collaboration, Computing Practice and Programming, Computer and Communications Devices, Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

  • includes all areas of technology
  • recently edited to include Innovative Designer and Computational Thinker as two of seven strands, reflecting the significance of process, logical thinking, and breaking a problem into a sequence of steps

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)

  • divided into elementary K-2 and 3-5, middle 6, 7, 8, and high school levels
  • programming and designing solutions first mentioned in K-2
  • high school includes specific standards for Computer Science, Game Programming and Design, Robotics Programming and Design, and many more

Next Generation Science Standards

  • search and download by level or topic
  • science-based, but includes Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science citing the importance of computational thinking, breaking down problems into smaller parts, and real-world applications
  • international; referenced by robotics kits manufacturers such as Lego (Click on Educational Standards to see Common Core and NGSS correlation in this sample) and VEX IQ (VEX IQ Curriculum Education Standards lists learning objectives for its online units)

Prince Edward Island Career and Technical Education: Robotics

  • specific to robotics in Grades 10-12
  • samples of rubrics, rating scales, reflection logbooks, and learning journals

Of course there are many more computer science standards documents online. If you have one to add to the list, please let me know!

Scratch Learning Objectives

If Scratch is part of your curriculum, you may want to refer to the Scratch Skill Summary from TechnoCode. This assessment tool includes a checklist of learning objectives. They are categorized by the headings: applied technology, computer science, Scratch coding, graphic design, and digital citizenship. The document might spark some ideas for developing your own computer science standards.

Scratch learning objectives.

Scratch learning objectives. Checklist from TechnoCode, a TechnoKids STEM project.

Microsoft Office Proficiency and Career Readiness

In a recent post about STEM education and career preparation, I searched online to find jobs related to science, technology, engineering, and math. In the search box of popular job site listings such as Indeed or Monster.com, previously I had put job titles. Instead, this time I entered the keywords Microsoft Office. I was shocked to see the number of jobs in which Microsoft Office proficiency was listed in the Skills/Knowledge or Key Competencies requirements.

Microsoft Office

Skills in Microsoft Office programs is a common requirement in job postings

What does this mean for the students of today? As teachers, one of our main areas of focus is career preparation. It’s apparent that employers value technology skills in addition to the qualifications related to the specific job. Regardless of the career, whether it is as an environmental scientist, software developer, civil engineer, financial analyst, or any of the countless possibilities for the future, a foundation in the basic Microsoft Office programs is a benefit. A well-rounded proficiency in general word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and desktop publishing skills is often expected. Once students acquire a balanced foundation, they are well prepared to branch out and learn more complex, job-specific software.

microsoft office proficiency

A wide variety of STEM jobs require a basic knowledge of Microsoft programs

Microsoft Office, STEM, and an Integrated Curriculum

STEM education advocates a blending of disciplines. Also, students should be given meaningful, real-world tasks. A typical challenge may require resources from a variety of curricular areas. Technology tools should be used as they are needed. To pick an application to complete a task, students need a well-balanced background in a suite of programs. Once they have a sound understanding of Microsoft Office, students can tackle an inquiry project and make an informed decision about which apps they need to use. If they need to write a report, they should already know how to use the main tools of Word. If they want to create a graph, a fundamental understanding of Excel is needed. If project results should be displayed as a visual presentation, previous experience with PowerPoint is indispensable. The skills to use the right tools empower students to solve problems effectively.

Microsoft Office and Interpersonal Skills

As students build Microsoft Office proficiency, the confidence they gain inspires them to confront new challenges and further inquiry. Their critical thinking skills, flexibility, and troubleshooting expertise help them to adapt to other computer applications that they may encounter in upcoming years at school or in the workplace.

Microsoft Office Proficiency and TechnoKids Technology Projects

As teachers, one of our essential goals is to equip students with technology and professional skills while offering an interdisciplinary curriculum in order to prepare students for the workplace of the future. This task can seem formidable for sure! Project based learning can achieve all of these goals.

TechnoKids technology projects are integrated activities that pose real-world problems. Students complete assignments such as publishing a newsletter, launching a new business venture, preparing a budget, collaborating to debate a controversial issue, or promoting a weekend getaway. As students solve these challenges, they learn the key computer skills that they need. TechnoKids Microsoft Extra Package is a collection of ICT and STEM technology projects for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.

microsoft office proficiency

TechnoKids Microsoft Extra Package builds critical career readiness

Using a project-based framework, students build fundamental skills in word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, desktop publishing, and databases. In addition, the technology skills are blended with professional skills such as time management, communication, and teamwork. These are all critical elements for career readiness. Presented in a real-world, meaningful setting, each TechnoKids project engages students, fosters computer literacy, and inspires innovative thinking. By developing a sound basis in Microsoft Office today, students can be better prepared for STEM job opportunities in the workplace of the future.