I watched 60 Minutes on March 3rd, 2019 which happened to include an interesting segment you can find here: “Closing the Gender Gap in the Tech Industry”. Given declining numbers of women with computer science degrees, a non-profit code.org is hoping to shift that paradigm and is offering opportunities for girls to learn to code.
From the home page, a user has the option of selecting Student or Educator. For students, courses are segmented into K-5, 6-12 and beyond K-12 grades. Many of the courses are taught through problem-based games that engage creativity and excitement. Something I feel that has missed the mark with K-12 curriculums. For teachers, courses are segmented as well and are given suggested curriculums and courses to teach for those grade levels.
The website is intuitive, educational and fun and follows several learning principles that I studied (Mayer & Clark, 2016). I decided to take the “Express Course” for grades K-5 which teaches computer science fundamentals using drag and drop blocks.
- With the multimedia principle, the course graphics and text are very easy-to-understand and tie in with the game concept and grade level. This course provides two short videos to watch before the user can begin coding. When coding is completed for each level, the user can watch the animation play. The program allows the user to make continual edits if coding was not completed accurately.
- With the contiguity principle, all of the graphics and text are on one screen. When coding, the words for each block are listed on the block itself, plus you can click on the ‘Show Code’ button to see the actual code. How cool is that!
- For the modality and redundancy principles, I couldn’t find good examples at least based on the one course that I started watching and playing. When I watched the animation playback after I coded the blocks, the program played some fun sounds to go along with the movements. There is an option to listen to the command at the top of the screen rather than simply read it. I’ll add that the voice is female, though it sounds somewhat digitized.
- With coherence, the program does not play any extraneous sounds which allowed me to concentrate on building my coding blocks. Again, the short video clips, in the beginning, created a good foundation for these lessons.
- The personalization principle was well-represented in the short video clips as well. One of the videos is a female instructor making a glass bowl with a teenage girl. The instructor talks about the importance of algorithms in her job and how that relates to coding.
Finally, there are plenty of opportunities to see feedback while working in the course, after completing a level and viewing the curriculum.
There are many exciting features demonstrated in Code’s website aside from the fact that it’s FREE and advocates for ‘girl power’ in the computer science space. I only wish that this site had existed when I was young.
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2016). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA, US: Pfeiffer/John Wiley & Sons.