Over the past few years I have slowly converted my 7th grade course from teaching mostly computer productivity apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint (Or Google Docs, Sheets and Slides) to more computer science opportunities such as Scratch.
This year I decided to finish the conversion and make the entire course (except for teaching digital citizenship) a variety of computer science opportunities. Students have been given the choice of the topics they will learn. All of the choices teach computer science principles along with problem solving and computational thinking.
Students have been given the choice to learn and program using Scratch, Python, Minecraft, Digital Making with the Raspberry Pi or LEGO Mindstorms. I chose these options because I already have all the materials needed. (I am fortunate to have been awarded three grants over the last four years to acquire these resources.)
I want to explain how the activities are set up. I created content ahead of time. In some cases students watch a screen cast that I created. In other cases they read a set of instructions I have provided. The students are slowing learning new skills and then get to test those skills.
After only two weeks I am finding that implementing such a huge plan is exhausting. But, it is a good exhaustion because I am watching students get excited about what they are creating in Scratch. I have some students excited to create a guess a number game in Python. Students are excited to see an EV3 robot move about the room. Instead of them watching and copying me, they are in charge of their own learning. For the sake of transparency, there are students who are choosing not to complete the activities. I now have the chance to sit beside him or her to find our why they are not working and to help scaffold so they too can be successful.
As Miss Phillips, a curriculum director I worked with, use to say, “Be a guide on the side and not a sage on the stage.” When you are a guide on the side you get a different point of view. You get to see the students taking control of their learning and you get to watch them soar!