I am waiting for that era in education when coded solutions, whatever the platform or language, become as commonplace in student submissions in all subjects as Google Slides/Docs or PDFs or PowerPoint or videos are at the moment. While it is exciting to see a growing awareness of Computer Science across the world, we are still quite a distance away from embedding confidence and structure in non-Computing classes on how coded solutions can find a place within them. This includes ensuring that non-Computing teachers are supported with creating the right pedagogy and assessment criteria to be able to assess coded student work. Making computing skills accessible and engaging may not be sustainable if students are not given equal opportunities in other classes/subjects to utilize/demonstrate these skills frequently.
At ISA, we began a mandatory weekly computing class last year for grade 6 and this year have expanded it to all middle years (grades 6-8). Once a week these classes meet and work on a coding platform specially handpicked for its ease of integration with other subjects. Grade 6s are working with Microbits and physical computing. Grade 7s (who did Microbits last year) are learning further coding concepts by building apps in Code.org’s App Labs. Grade 8(currently a mix of slightly experienced but mostly coding newbies) are building VR experiences with CoSpaces. In High School (IGCSE/IB Computing) we remain largely a Python/Java playground.
Regardless of grade level and platform focus, my efforts have been to keep linking classroom activities with the world outside. This blog post, hence, is a log of some student work exemplars from those attempts over the last year and a half. I am also documenting my observations and takeaways from this ongoing journey.
Sample Student Projects
Couple of months ago I was part of #CSSMeets webinar where I spoke of the scaffolding we are trying at ISA to transition students from block to text coding. Over the last 15 months, students in the middle and high school years have developed a few solutions with some cross curricular hooks. I have already documented their efforts from last year with P5JS here. Given below are some of the more recent projects.
Grade 8 – Teachable Project
In this unit Grade 8 students chose a topic from one of their other subjects and built an educational/immersive experience around it. Given the cross curricular nature of CoSpaces we hope to amplify such efforts in the middle years.
The Physics Engine in CoSpaces allows for plenty of STEM related cross curricular links which I am in the process of developing further into complete units. Ideally I would want a non Computing teacher to initiate the project in their classroom and for Computing students to build solutions around it.
Grade 9/10 – Interactive Python Chatbot Project
In the high school grades 9 and 10 built small interactive programs in Python that were aimed at creating awareness about a social topic using programming methods. Here are a few samples.
Grade 11/12 – Data analysis based mini projects
One of the projects I have enjoyed in the IB is the Group 4 project. This is a cross curricular Sciences project where students from different scientific fields – Computer Science included – work together to identify and process datasets to solve a problem. Keeping this theme in mind I had a few of my IB students build data backed analysis and projection models that address different social, cultural and environmental issues around us.
Next steps in this process
The samples listed above are a small preview of what is possible when CS gets its source ideas and content from other subjects/areas. The next step for me in this process will be looking for ways to collaborate with other teachers – as in co-create a unit together – so that students can build computational solutions using requirements and problems from other subject areas. I have already started conversations about this within ISA and hope to have more examples to share in coming months. Having a few well designed exemplars can promote more confidence and clarity with other subject teachers on how CS can be best used within their topics. I look forward to keep adding more updates on this front.