March 17, 2020

Computer Coding For Children: School Closures & Beyond

Computer coding for children for school closures & beyond.

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Alysha Dominico, CEO and Co-Founder of Tangible Words, does not know how to code. Two weeks ago, she began a weekly journey learn coding as an adult using Hatch@Home.  This week she tested coding on her children!

Computer Coding For Children Amidst School Closures

It's been one week since my declaration that I would learn to code as an adult. You think you have time to do these things when your kids are at school - until suddenly COVID-19 strikes down in Canada and schools close for 3 weeks.

Follow along on Alysha's mult-week coding bootcamp: learning to code online.

My two boys have been home since Thursday night in our family's effort to aid Canada's goal to 'flatten the curve' (i.e. keeping even our healthy hands at home instead of potentially spreading Coronavirus germs living on surfaces outside of our home).

So, that's how my 5 and 7 1/2 year old kids got to try my experiment in learning to code at "home" with Hatch.

Hatch is meant to be for kids who are ages 8 and up. But you know what kids are like - they love to try whatever the other is doing.  But I found that even my 5 year old could work on literacy and numeracy using Hatch's software.

What My Small Kids (and I) Learned From Hatch Coding

Hatch has set up computer coding for children in a way that is great for attracting the attention of children. We had heaps of fun doing the following things today:

  1. Number Play with 'Lesser Than, Greater Than'
  2. Deconstructing Instructions with Pseudocode
  3. Researching the RGB Code for Turquoise

To be clear, all my kids did was type the code that they saw - or I typed it for them. And then we played around with what we say to make the animations we produced move or change colours.

It was the boys' first time in Hatch Coding, they have never coded before. I knew little more about code than they did. But that's not the point of Hatch Coding in these early days. It's set up like how teachers would introduce really big concepts - very gradually - and in a way that makes learning fun.

Here's how we used our Casual Coding Subscription to play and have fun, and learn...

1. Number Play with 'Lesser Than, Greater Than' Grade 2 Math Curriculum

One of the core math concepts my grade two child has been learning in Ontario Math curriculum this year has been the concept of 'lesser than, greater than' with numbers.

After we typed the instructions we were supposed to type, we made a ball appear on a different coloured background.

One of the Challenges was to make both the background and balls in our coding project change colour. In that process, we learned about RGB codes.

What are RGB Codes? There are 3 colours to make any colour on a computer screen: Red (R), Green (G), and Blue (B). If you add a bigger or a lesser number on these 3 values, the colour changes as you add more, or less blue, more or less red, or more or less green.

Playing with the RGB numbers was  a really neat lesson in reading and typing numbers for Jasper at 5, and for Bailey, it confirmed his understanding of lesser number values and greater ones; and he could immediately see the results of lesser numbers in the changing of the colours.

There was a lot of giggling as they found they had the "power" to make the colour change.

2. Deconstructing Written Instructions (Ontario Grade 2 French and English Curriculum)

The same project  was also a great lesson in reading - letters for Jasper in Kindergarten, and deconstructing instructions for Bailey in Grade 2.

Here's how that worked: Hatch gives you the English written instruction. If you already know the code sequence, you can start typing the code to make the instruction happen. We are just learning, so we don't know the code sequence. Thus, we pressed the 'break it down' button, which gave us the pseudocode.

In Grade 2, the challenge is not just sounding out words anymore but being able to test comprehension is really important. Bailey and I were able to talk about our understanding of the code instructions, which put him on a level playing field with me, instead of when we are reading chapter books.

We broke down the code another time. We used the "focus" button so that he could type what he saw above (both of them having to read and find letters on the keyboard). Afterwards we had the result of getting the instructions to turn into an animation of a Star Wars Droid - which we then switched in a challenge to get Princess Leia's head to appear.  

3. Researching: Learning to Think Critically and Ask Questions

Finally we learned to research together, a critical thinking skill for all kids.

Jasper wanted to turn the ball on one project to turquoise. It was a hard enough word to spell let alone find the RGB Code for! After playing around with the RGB codes for a while, and despite seeing the cause and effect of our efforts, we couldn't get the right colour mix.

I had the boys tell me what question we needed to type into Google to research the "RGB Code for Turquoise" ( "0, 255, 239").

I've made a video below to walk you through the lessons above using the "hold a droid' project on Hatch@Home in case you want your kids to learn curriculum based skills during the school closures.

Hatch's computer coding for children was fun and easy for all of us - see my explanation in the video below.

Check out this Video

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