For anyone unfamiliar with Kahn Academy, it was founded by Salman Khan who was making YouTube videos to tutor his cousins. The videos became popular and the idea grew from there into a website that now offers free world class education for anyone across a variety of subjects. You can watch Salman Khan talk more about Khan Academy here - seriously click the link - it is worth a listen!
I had used a few videos here and there for maths lessons with success, but had never signed my class up as a "coach" (as it is known on the website). That was until I noticed that computer programming was offered as a course on the Khan Academy - and this got me thinking "why not?" We had some time each week in the computer lab where I could supervise my students a little more closely and guide them in this little experiment. From the minute they watched the introduction video below, they were hooked:
We started out very structured. We watched the videos together. I demonstrated and broke everything down and then they would go and try it themselves. We did suffer a few hurdles as the lab computers were not really up to the task, but we got there. With each task, the kids enthusiasm grew and soon I was noticing that they were spending time at home working on their course - and not just a few minutes either! The children found the tutor very relatable and the activities challenging but fun. If they ever got stuck, the website had built in features to help them (way to make me feel useless!) It wasn't long before I found myself thinking "how did they do that?" and noticed that the skill of my students was surpassing my own - quite hard for a teacher to admit at times!
Here are a few of the pictures the children produced using java code:
One of the biggest shocks to me was the success that my learning support kids were having. I had my hesitations about throwing something so seemingly complicated at them, but they surprised with me with what they achieved and their enthusiasm for the course in general.
Do I think kids should learn to code? Absolutely! Why not? My students felt empowered and suddenly saw themselves as creators. I think it is a skill that is going to become more and more valuable over time. Even exposing the children to this introductory level of programming gave them a lot more perspective on technology in general and had them asking a lot more questions. A few have had some ambition ignited by the experience and want to go to learn more.
Would I recommend Khan Academy as a tool to teach programming? Again, absolutely! It was a wonderful platform - easy to navigate for the children, it gave me a way to monitor their progress, the course was well structured and suitably paced.
...and will I do it again next year? For sure!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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