While good technology never replaces good teaching and while computers are merely a tool, they are very effective tools for enhancing instruction.
Coding activities start in our early childhood program with our intent that all students graduate LRS being digitally literate. Even our beginner program participates with technology units that aim at building a foundational vocabulary and understanding of some of the basic concepts of technology. Much of what is needed to be digitally literate and proficient with coding starts with fundamental skills that are often better taught without devices.
Hands on activities with lights, LEDs, circuits, and motors are excellent concrete ways for young learners to see cause and effect, as well as to start building a vocabulary around technology. In Nursery, children play an “unplugged” board game, which introduces them to logic puzzles and sequencing. Nursery students also practice those skills critical to early programming, devising methodical, clear and logical problem-solving techniques, algorithms that are simple yet fundamental to all future coding success. The Nursery students also have an opportunity to assemble and breakdown basic circuits.
Long Ridge School K-1 students explore coding fundamentals in a small group setting. Using the SMART board and board games, learning stresses the process of developing algorithms to solve programming problems that move objects around a screen. Defining patterns and by extension repeats, students begin to understand the building blocks of code. By the end of the year, students are independently building programs and also have a chance to program robots with sequences and loops. Students also use the Chromebooks to author their own books and stories by the end of the first grade.
The LRS students in second and third grade start to use technology for creative expression, as well as continuing to build their understanding of coding loops, conditionals, and variables. Second and third graders also build their own robots in a STEM electronics and robotics unit. Students build robots that include microcontrollers and motor drivers and then demonstrate their finished robots to younger students. Each student is paired with a younger learner to try their hand at programming the robot to accomplish simple tasks, like crossing the room, turning around, and moving backwards.
With a 1:1 Chromebook program, the fourth and fifth grade students develop coding skills using Scratch during weekly coding classes. Developing a set of problem-solving skills and techniques they demonstrate a fluency with underlying computer programming fundamentals like loops, conditionals, and debugging. Students manipulate sophisticated commands and logic to story tell, to create animations and games of their own design, and to showcase their learning in other subjects. Fourth- and fifth-grade students also become more fluent with a variety of productivity and digital communication tools and Chromebook Apps. They learn the fundamental steps to locate and evaluate online information and to cite them appropriately in their academic research – skills that will define their academic research for years to come.
Principles of Digital Citizenship are modeled and discussed throughout. Additionally students explore the underlying electronics of a computer in STEM units during science.