North Vancouver School District
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A lesson in coding

May 30, 2017

​Holding-up a deck of cards, teacher Paul Clarke lays out the conditions of the card game his "students" are about to play.


"If I draw a five, clap. If I draw a card higher than five, yell 'Yay'. And if I draw a card lower than five, say 'Awwww'," explains Clarke, a District Helping Teacher in the North Vancouver School District.


Clarke is using cards to teach the premises of computer coding – and he's teaching the basics of coding not to students, but to other elementary school teachers from across the North Vancouver School District. Clarke is one of two teachers supporting district-wide efforts to embed technology into classrooms, including the new coding curriculum.


"The kids will learn this faster than you. Don't let that bother you. It's OK," said Clarke to the group of nearly 70 elementary school teachers attending a coding workshop after school at Sutherland Secondary.


Clarke teaches the program 'Scratch' at a North Vancouver School District elementary coding workshop

The coding workshop was hosted by Clarke and Justine Frazee, the second 'District Helping Teacher' who supports other teachers across the school district with their use of technology in the classroom. It was a two-session after-school workshop offered to support elementary teachers in implementing coding and the new Applied Design, Skills and Technologies curriculum. Topics covered included 'Unplugged' computer science activities, coding for grades kindergarten to seven, 'Makey Makey' projects (an invention kit that turns everyday objects into touchpads and combines them with the internet), and coding for robots. The workshop filled-up almost immediately, even needing to be moved to a larger space to accommodate the numbers.


North Vancouver School District elementary coding workshop

"The appetite for the coding training demonstrates that teachers are eager to learn. While we might not be as innately comfortable with technology as our students, it is fun to learn alongside them. By learning together, both us as teachers and our students are learning valuable technology skills that will help carry us successfully through today's connected world," said Frazee.


Teachers at the workshop were highly engaged. Delving into the activities on iPads and laptops, asking plenty of questions, and enjoying the process of trying, failing and trying again. They learned that to teach coding, one does not need to be an expert coder, they simply need to understand how to introduce the tools and learn themselves.


"The students get it just like 'that' and the best teacher just supervises and assists; introducing a basic skill and then letting them go," said Kevin Williams, grade four teacher, Dorothy Lynas Elementary School.


Teachers worked on the programs Scratch, Scratch Junior and as part of the workshop. Every attendee also walked away with a coding resource kit to support themselves and their colleagues at their school to teach coding. The most valuable thing attendees walked away with, however, was the confidence to get into their classrooms and to start coding with their students.


"I was nervous to teach something I am unfamiliar with, but now I am really excited to teach it," said Janice Cork, grade five teacher, Cleveland Elementary School.