by Upper School teacher Karen Latham
In March, I had the privilege of attending the T^3 International Math Conference, sponsored by Texas Instruments. The keynote speaker was Dr. Timothy Kanold, a well-known math educator more recently known for his work in training teachers. In his speech, Dr. Kanold said, “each and every student has the right to learn with technology.” I could not agree with him more and believe that it is our responsibility as educators to integrate technology in a meaningful way in our classrooms. I have been fortunate to work here at Pike. Not only have I been encouraged to embrace new technology in my teaching, but I have also participated in professional development opportunities and brought new ideas back to Pike. Technology can help us achieve learning and collaboration in our classrooms in ways that were not possible before.
This summer, I attended the local Texas Instruments conference and received a summer grant from Pike to learn about coding on TI-84 CE calculators in conjunction with the Innovator Hub. During the fall trimester, Liza Waters and I are teaching an elective in the upper school on basic coding, programming and engineering design. Our goal is to introduce students to the basics of programming, a critical 21st-century skill, using the TI-84 CE calculators. All of our activities are project-based, with the intention of helping our students explore, understand, and connect concepts in math and science with coding and engineering design. Coding is certainly a practical skill for our students to learn in today’s world.
Some of the projects that we will be working on this fall include displaying information, using variables, constructing conditional statements and loops, and incorporating graphics into their design. We recently introduced a new app to our students called Mind Vector, which helps organize ideas using mapping. Mind Vector is a great app that has a lot of potential for other disciplines too. In the second half of the term, we hope to be using the Innovator Hub. This device allows the calculator to communicate with other devices such as a breadboard with lights or a speaker. Two of the challenges planned is to write a program that will send out a message in Morse code and to program the calculator to play a song. We can’t wait to see what our students create.
In the spring term, Upper School teacher, Rob Smith and I will be continuing this elective by offering more coding and programming, but in the context of engineering design. I am excited about the opportunity to work with Rob and this collaborative project between the math and science departments. Our hope is to eventually integrate some of these projects into our regular curriculum so that all of our students will have some exposure to basic programming and engineering design.
What are the benefits? Building critical thinking skills and deepening our students’ understanding of programming in a fun and meaningful way. Students are given challenges, and encouraged to design and develop their programs. Mistakes and modification are the norms as students continually assess their work and make changes. Collaboration is also encouraged. Students work together in teams or partners and help each other problem solve. Our classroom is lively and the time seems to fly during the class period. Students are challenged at their own personal level of expertise. All of the projects can be taken to advanced levels as students become more comfortable with their programming skills.
The possibilities are endless and we are excited about the new opportunities available to our students. If your son or daughter is currently taking the Coding and Programming elective please ask them about what they have been doing. Their energy and enthusiasm have been wonderful!
The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit pikeschool.org to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page.
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