Let’s code and stay safe online!


In this article I will tell you about several activities carried out during the Let’s Code Week and some online activities carried out with my students in the past months. The mission was to make a difference through continuous support from educators to students’ professional development towards effective science learning.

All young people should be educated to think deeply by using the internet safely and to have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our world, both today and tomorrow.

With this event, teachers wanted to engage students in STEM and coding activities in a playful way, making it useful for when they start their careers and look for jobs. Moreover, activities that effectively support young people to develop critical thinking, creativity, digital and collaborative skills, and science capital. The pedagogical method has a strong inclusive potential and fosters the STEM education and the inclusion of disadvantaged students both inside and outside the classroom.

The goal was also to show to the classical education system that the IT professional world is ready to spend time in order to help the education system in the building and enhancing their computer programming curriculum.

The Let’s code event aimed to create awareness about the need for a basic understanding of today’s technology and STEM. It strives for children to be taught the basics of algorithms in order to safely make use of today’s internet, the development of students’ competencies such as computational thinking, problem-solving, and increased creativity and teamwork – very good skills in all spheres of life.

This event enabled students to:

  • Find their passion for developing ICT skills and possibly become IT professionals;
  • Be in a social setting where they can interact with other minded children;
  • Strengthen and interconnect people in eTwinning projects;
  • To generate more interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Participated in eTwinning projects: CODING: A WAY TO GROW UPCoding to the future, student clubs organized workshops for new participants, and showed them how to make a game or an app with code.

The specific objectives were to empower disadvantaged young people in the acquisition and development of IT and STEM and collaborative competences as well as problem-solving, self-confidence, and creativity through a peer-learning training program on Coding and use it in STEM projects.

There were the introductory digital applications that explore several apps providing the basic concepts of digital coding, through a playful learning experience. Also the visual coding with the Scratch and Minecraft language, which provides insight into a widely used coding language for children, and how it can be applied to make fun games, applications, and animations. Creating for students the quality, experience, and the opportunity to be educated by leaders and professionals in the field of ICT. #ICT #robotic #coding

The main themes were data manipulation and visualization, Basic programming concepts, Unplugged activities, Art and creativity, Internet of things and wearable computing, Promoting diversity, Other.

To sparkle curiosity and start the teaching process I ask the students:

  • What is an Algorithm? An algorithm is a detailed step-by-step instruction set or formula for solving a problem or completing a task. In computing, programmers write algorithms that instruct the computer how to perform a task.
  • How to create an Algorithm? Algorithms are all around us, governing everything from the technology they use to the step they take to get ready each day?
  • Can you create your algorithm?

To explain the algorithm students created a game that was demonstrated in front of other students, teachers, and our stakeholder. See pictures bellow

The pictures are the author’s own with the appropriate authorization to be shared – Attribution CC-BY

Students were divided in five groups:

Group 1: Participants don’t need computers and internet connection to learn computational thinking. We tried out some off-line coding with Edmodo – Robot and printed some worksheets. We showed participants how fun it can be to create something on their own. Our students created a game that students have the opportunity to create an algorithm. This activity engages students with STEM and coding in a playful way.

The title of the game was “A tourist trip with Edmodo to Albania”. A group of tourists, with a guide, go to a tourist village. Cicero has prepared fun games to make the exploration more interesting but only 2 of the tourists agreed to take part, the others continuing their exploration alone. Cicero explains the rules of the game to tourists, which are used in the game checkpoints, different orientation signs, information, and queries that will teach you more information about tourist attractions.

The game rules were: the tourist would move a square for each selected card. If the card “turn right” or “turn left” is selected the tourist will stay in the spot and turn to the directed cards. If the tourist is positioned in the square that has a question mark, their group will select a question from the question box. The questions were about Climate Change.

The pictures are the author’s own with the appropriate authorization to be shared – Attribution CC-BY

If students answer correctly they would continue the game by selecting the letters of the algorithm to move the game to the next level, otherwise, they would lose the guide and return to the starting position. If they are positioned in the 2x box we have duplication of the last movement of the algorithm. If positioned in the “return” box, it will rotate 90° left or right. If the tourist arrives at one of the destinations in the “Tourist Village” or “Apollonia” he decides whether to continue the journey in the other attractions, otherwise he will leave the other group with tourists.

The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

Once the game is over, the two tourists or two groups of tourists share their thoughts and impressions on the guide by also presenting the algorithms created and compare them and find the errors in their algorithms. Students give code instructions to each other.

Group 2. Strak pack: The game with cups. The purpose was to emphasize programming techniques and the links between symbols and actions. Students can learn to turn to real-world activities into commands also gaining command for coding practices with symbols. There is a need for coding accuracy.

The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY
The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

Group 3: Encode the message or Decode the message. The aim was to develop students’ competencies such as problem-solving, and increased creativity and teamwork – very good skills in all spheres of life. Also strengthening and interconnecting people.

During this activity students created a message via binary code to be subsequently deciphered by other groups.“Protect the environment”, “The Book is a Treasure”, “Trees are oxygen”: these were some of our students’ coded messages. The student used the concept of binary to illustrate how a computer encrypts data that will be stored for later use.
Allowed students to:

  • Learn that a computer does not understand the language the way we do.
  • Discover that all types of information can be stored in different combinations with only two choices.
  • Learn to encode letters in binary.
  • Learn how to decode binaries in letters.
The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY
The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

Group 4: Minecraft and Scratch games. In these activities we created an animation where the students expressed their wishes regarding their future profession in the form of characters. Students at the end of the animation created a quiz with questions and discussions, in order to identify the global impact that can be created, through small actions.

The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

Group 5: Pixel Art. We started the activity with my question: what is Pixel Art? Then I provided the answer, Pixel is a single point or dot of color in a larger image. Large images are made up of thousands of small pixels. How does it work? Each box in the grid is a single pixel. Some of the pixels have been colored to make a simple figure. We can label the rows and columns of the image to make it easier to pick out specific pixels, see pictures:

The pictures are the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

However we had a lot of fun during the Let’s Code Week, now, the world is confronting COVID-19. The activities carried out helped students to develop better ICT skills that also contribute to this period of online learning. In this difficult situation we have tried to stay close to students through online learning. As students around the globe move to remote learning, we have seen PhET sims play a critical role in maintaining quality STEM education. I often use this program PhET to explain to my student’s different lessons.

Explanation Video in Albanian

Many of the methods and tools we have used in distance learning have been new to both teachers and students. A challenge that helps us developing digital competencies and fostering critical thinking. For example, in my experience, the Google classroom platform is a good collaborative and interactive opportunity for students and teachers. However I like to use Google Classroom there are several other tools that can also be good and adequate for teaching such as Zoom, MS Teams, Go To Meetings, Golab, Adobe Connect, etc.

How have I been proceeding with my lessons? Follow some of my steps:

  1. Click on the Classwork tab. In the materials section, create the subject material Lesson time; ” Statistics” by uploading it as a file from mobile or PC where I have made a summary of all the information for repeating the chapter. Distribute it to the whole class.
  2. In the questions section, I create a question for all students about the subject to be studied, for example, “What kind of features of a statistical distribution do we have?” Or “Is the first quartile found with the formula [3 (n + 1) / 4]?”
  3. In the assessment section, the “forms”, I create a short query as a mini-test for quick assessment of students after class by leaving a set time limit.
  4. Regarding the assignment section, I place the tasks that the student will submit after attending the online lesson.

In my classes I teach maths and ICT and I have created my lesson by using GeoGebra program. See examples of assignments example 1, example 2 and example 3. In addition, another example I have used is LaTex and to write the text, for example, formulas, we must write the code that computer needs to process. So coding exercises here are essential.

My students also use online materials that we create in different programs. Another example Fliphtml5 (Content in Albanian). I have also created a Padlet as an assessment that students can place their homework for the Scratch lessons. Using the Scratch program they had to think about the topic “Made with dreams”: how can we help others in difficult situations caused by the virus? What would you like to do in this crisis period to make things better? See some results (Content in Albanian).

Finally, my message to you is: If you can, please, stay at home and stay healthy!

Author: Erviola Konomi, Scientix Ambassador from Albania 

Erviola Konomi teaches mathematics to high-school students for 16 years. She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert  MIEE 2017- 2020 and eTwinning Ambassador for Albania. Winner “Teacher of the Year in Innovation 2018 for Albania” – nominated by ACCE, CRCA, MASR, and Varkey Foundation. Her title is Education Specialist – Math and Innovative teacher.

Featured image is the author’s own – Attribution CC-BY

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