Teaching computer programming to 5-6 year old children

Botley

Teaching computer programming to children with Botley, the programmable robot.

Teaching computer programming

There is a lot of great technology available these days to teach computer programming to children. In the past I have had success with an iPad app called Kodable. More recently I have used Botley the programmable robot to introduce the concept of computer programming to young children.

Based on my experience, I am no longer amazed at how quickly 5 and 6 year old students can master coding. This observation has led me to appreciate that the current teaching model tends to act as a ceiling on learning – the teacher as “gatekeeper” rather than “catalyst”. This new appreciation has inspired me to modify and be more reflective of my teaching practice.

I’d like to describe how I approached the introduction of computer programming into the classroom. Initially, I introduced Botley to the whole class. Of course there was a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm for Botley so I had to figure out a way to give every student an opportunity to have a go. I decided the best approach was to bring Botley out during the “student-led” time of the day. This meant that I would be free to work uninterrupted with small groups at a time working with Botley.

The effective teaching and learning model

As well as being the “gatekeeper” in terms of allocation of opportunity it meant I could give explicit instruction and observe which students were showing the greatest competence. Needless to say, displays of high levels of curiosity and enthusiasm did not always translate into competence. But by working in this way I could persevere until I found a student or students who grasped the concept the quickest. I could then use these students to replace me as the teacher/model. This is what I interpret Hattie to mean when he describes the most effective teaching and learning model as being, “teachers as learners and students as teachers”.

I find this to be the most effective teaching and learning model. This model can now be seen operating throughout all my teaching practice. I describe it as the “student-sensitive, teacher-led” teaching model. It means that I always start with some form of direct teaching and modeling to students of the content that I know:-

a). they need to learn (such as literacy or numeracy) or,

b). will be of high interest, and generate lots of curiosity and enthusiasm (such as science topics like computer programming).

I then observe the impact of that teaching input on the students and then make further teaching inputs based on those observations.

In the video below you can hear the interactions between the “teacher” and the “student” and the self-talk.

Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.

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