Coding is a brilliant tool for differentiation.
Even our youngest students can be provided with pathways that provide enrichment and extension in many areas of the curriculum if the teacher has insight into the benefits and possibilities available. And what I keep saying to teachers is that they don’t have to be the expert in these tools. The mindset here is so much more important than the skill-set in terms of directing a child towards a tool which may cater for his/her skill level in this area.
We have children coming into our classrooms this year who have already used tools such as Scratch Jn, Dash n Dot robots, Blockly coding, Scratch, Hopscotch and Grok Coding – they have used them in the year level before, they have used them in our Young Innovator Program, they have used them in the Library or they have used them at home. All it takes is for a teacher to pose the idea, to take a risk and to say “Do you think you could make a game in Scratch Jnr that shows me how good you are at your Rainbow facts?” or “Do you think you could make a robot draw a square and rectangle?” or “Do you think you could make a game using factors and multiples using Hopscotch?”.
It’s possible, I guess, for some to wonder about this approach – in the same way we might wonder about a child who can already do regrouping in subtraction simply being given another 50 of them to do. What is important to realise is that when coding or animating using the software or apps mentioned above, the child is being given the opportunity to do a multitude of things:
- Use their skills or knowledge in a real context, to achieve a real purpose
- If their game or activity is designed to teach others – providing the creator with a deeper level of understanding themselves as they work to break the concept down in order to be able to teach it
- Build skills in computational thinking – breaking down problems, recognising patterns, sequencing events, adding loops and ‘if then’ statements
- Problem solve whilst designing the code or algorithm
- Build their resilience
It is also worth mentioning that when I say the mind set of the teacher is all important – that, of course, a little bit of knowledge of even one of these applications makes the possibilities so much more powerful. One example of this applies to Scratch – if you know that within Scratch there is the option to have a cartesian plan as the background, then a child who already understands the basic level of grid coordinates can be directed to actually USE these in a meaningful way and to make a quick animation or game that supports him or her to delve further into this mathematics and mapping concept.
Mathematics is the obvious area of alignment when seeking to take advantage of such opportunities. But there is no end to the options if teachers are willing to take a risk, be a little creative, learn with the students and understand the potential for these tools in the classroom.
Yr 1 students extending their skills in location and direction by coding a bee-bot through a maze:
A Yr 2 student showing her addition game in Scratch Jn
A Yr 5 students explaining their digital game that explores the nature of factors
A Yr 5 student demonstrating a digital solution in Scratch and although this is a Geography/DigiTech unit, it is clear that many aspects of Mathematics have been used here, providing enrichment for this student in a multitude of areas.
GROK Learning offers a tremendous opportunity to cater for students needing enrichment in Yr 5 and 6 in terms of Mathematics and Problem-Solving.
Of course, the use of coding and robotics also offers many opportunities to those students who need support in learning a concept – the use of the physical is an incredible motivator and possibly a learning catalyst for students in this category. This will be explored further in another post.