Tips for implementing coding activities in STEM classes

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What are the benefits of coding for students?

There are multiple reasons as to why students must familiarize themselves with coding and ICT. Coding fuels the creative potential of students and improves their observation skills. Through coding, they are exposed to a logical way of thinking, and through their mistakes, they discover new ways of solving a problem. Additionally, coding entails several different activities and disciplines such as robotics, computational thinking and visual programming. This means that there are many ways to involve students with varying interests and of all levels. Encouraging students to explore and discover their full potential and creativity will result in them becoming more confident and even entrepreneurial. Coding will enable them to understand the ‘making and building’ process better, and eventually turn their ideas into reality with several initiatives around the world investing on how to create a new generation of STEMpreneurs.

Coding in STEM education

How is coding linked to all STEM disciplines? We use programming in order to tell a computer what to do, but understanding computer science would not be possible without science, technology, engineering and math. There are many reasons as to why STEM programs increasingly use more programming courses in their curriculum. Python is needed in order to understand data science and algorithms, coding is getting more and more relevant in life and natural sciences and without programming skills there would be no pioneers in engineering and robotics.

Training materials that will help you integrate coding in your class

Teachers in every country, regardless of the subject they teach or their experience with programming, are encouraged to incorporate coding in their lessons. They can either design and implement their own activities, or visit the EU Code Week website and download the training materials that experts from all over Europe have created. Those lesson plans are free, and they can be further adapted to the needs or level of each class. Teachers who wish to gradually introduce their students to the various coding concepts, can try out activities that do not require Internet connection or even electronic devices with the training module Unplugged Coding.

Science teachers are welcome to explore the Learning Bit about Robotics and Tinkering and introduce their students to microelectronics and robotics. In addition, students should be taught that very much like the actual coding process, their ability to analyse and think critically should be structured in a way that breaks down bigger problems into smaller parts, a process that is called decomposition. Those principles can be applied in every STEM subject and are fully unveiled in the training module about Computational Thinking. Teachers who wish to introduce their students to an easy programming language may familiarize themselves with visual programming and try out the  Introduction to Scratch training module.

An opportunity for all teachers to innovate and experiment

Apart from students who will be experimenting with coding, the creativity of teachers is also challenged as they are called to design lesson plans and activities that could combine physics, programming, history and storytelling! Teachers of various subjects can inspire and encourage their students to get involved with programming, triggering an interest for STEM subjects that are considered to be the most demanding. Sounds ambitious or impossible? Coding has many similarities with storytelling as both follow a logical sequence of events or actions and rely on developments. Teachers can consult the training module Creating Educational Games with Scratch and create their own multidisciplinary projects. Why not design a game on Scratch where the characters are inspired from the most important scientific figures or polymaths in history, and discuss Newton’s Laws, mathematical principles and philosophical dilemmas? Scratch allows learners to customise their characters (sprites) but also their game projects, incorporating a variety of content that can range from mathematical operations to text, the possibilities are truly unlimited. At the same time, students are being introduced to visual coding which offers the opportunity to learn and create in a collaborative, fun and engaging way. No matter what the chosen coding activity will be, it will surely allow students to experiment and express their own unique ideas, embrace innovation and improve.

Author: Eleni Myrtsioti, European Schoolnet

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