How Coding Inspired Me and Enabled my Cyber School Students to Success!
By Katie Devlin, 7-12 Social Studies Teacher
As a social studies teacher in cyber school, something that I strive to do is find ways to encourage my students to think critically. Yes, I teach 7th grade geography, but it’s so much more than that. As a teacher in my department, I am challenged to create interactive thinkers who can work together, talk through problems, and who want to learn and grow. In cyber school, that means thinking outside the box.
At the beginning of the school last year, I found an online game design challenge that had students creating games about real-world issues. After being accepted into the Challenge I was given a two-day training to learn basic game design skills using a course from the website Scratch.
My training was excellent, and although I still had a ton to learn, I was excited to share my new knowledge with students who wanted to join our Game Design Club!
This club was, by far, my greatest adventure last year. This club provided my students with 21st century skills, problem solving, and chances to collaborate. These are real-world skills they will use as adults in whatever workplace they desire. Presenting these situations to my students was eye-opening!
As the teacher in this situation, I was blessed to have several dedicated and passionate students who were soon teaching me coding tips and tricks as the year continued! It was powerful and humbling to be taught coding tricks by high schoolers, and it helped me to truly see that everyone is a teacher a learner.
Although our After School Clubs and Programs were just in their first year, I had a regular attendance of ten core students working on the final challenge for the club. In the end, there were three teams that created games on the themes of future communities, immigration, and climate change.
At the end of the challenge, two groups won their categories for the Pittsburgh area! (Check out the winners here) I was truly blessed by this unique experience and am continuing to learn how to code.
When reflecting upon last year, I can see the following three themes come to the forefront when it comes to my experience teaching my kids games design:
- Coding requires time. It is not instant. Students are often accustomed to multiple choice tests where they simply click and the answer is present. Coding it’s not so simple. Students have to work through, test, and possibly even revise their processes in order to achieve their goals.
- Coding requires collaboration. My students were all working on their final games in small groups. This proved to be so successful! Each of the groups had students in different grades and with different levels of ability when it came to game design.
I created group chats that I monitored to make sure all collaboration was positive. The students were given the freedom to work at their own pace during club time with their groups, and the communication and collaboration during the class helped the students to grow in their collaborative skills!
- Coding requires patience: This was an invaluable skill that my students gained. Whether it was working together and someone not contributing, hitting a portion of the code that just wouldn’t work, or learning something completely new, my students needed to remember to grant themselves patience.
We had many lunchtime sessions that involved peer feedback of the games the students created, and they often had to have patience with each other as well as they accepted feedback that may be tough.
We have some wonderful things in store for gaming club this fall, but this first year, with all of the trial and error will always be dear to my heart. As a teacher, I will always strive to embrace new ways to reach and teach my students.
The passion and drive these students had, as well as the problem-solving, communication, and will to succeed that I saw will equip them wherever they go in life. I can’t wait to see what they do next - whether it be create a video game, give an amazing public speech, or anything else! Thus, coding in cyber school changed me and my students for the better.