Community Coding Classes

By Lori Farley, media specialist at North City Elementary in Athens City Schools and 2019 East Tennessee Teacher of the Year

Lori Farley and her fifth graders recently taught community members about coding.

This February, my students and I hosted Community Coding Classes to share computer coding with community members here in Athens. The classes were a huge success, and we’re still seeing and hearing positive feedback across our town. Here’s the kicker though…I am NOT an expert in coding.

You heard that correctly! I took on a project with computer coding without being a coding expert.  Here’s what happened as a result of being vulnerable enough to lean into new learning, learn with my students, and lead with my students from where we are!


First, why Code.org?

Three years ago, I discovered Code.org and introduced it to my students. Code.org is a FREE, user-friendly platform with tutorials that teach kids to write computer code. Their vision is that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.” You can check out their promotional video here. My students and I agree that all kids can benefit from learning to code.

Student Voice

When it came time to create a capstone project as a part of my Teacher of the Year learning, I had several ideas. I narrowed it to two and let the most underused voices in education help me decide the direction: my students. They overwhelmingly felt that computer coding should be shared! When students immediately started making slide presentations on why coding was important, I knew it was the right path.


Impact

The students grew tremendously from our work with one noting, “My most memorable part of teaching code is when you think of the impact you leave on someone.” During the seven days of Community Coding Classes, my 4th and 5th grade intervention groups taught our principal, 12 parents, two grandparents, two student teachers, eight teachers, two instructional assistants, six school board members, seven central office members, 11 students from one of our partner schools, and 14 community members to code. That totals 54 adults and 11 students participating in our Community Coding Classes, and this doesn’t include the reach our project has had through social and local media! Feedback from those participants has been overwhelmingly positive. While everyone left with a better understanding of why coding is important, a few comments really stand out. For example, Robin Crisp from Athens City Schools’ Central Office “walked away with the impression that these students are not only learning academically but also how to teach, build relationships, and communicate well with others.” Peyton Eastman, a children’s librarian at EG Fisher Library added, “The students clearly were greatly enjoying learning to code and as a result, they were considering a wider range of future careers and opportunities. Everyone in our community should know about the Community Coding Class!”

Ready, Set, Go!

The immediate lesson was about coding, but there are bigger ones to learn, too. What’s the one thing you have been wanting to try in the classroom, but haven’t yet? What’s holding you back?  Have you asked your students? While a deep knowledge of a program or application can be best in some situations, I am so happy I took the risk and dove into coding with my students and sharing it with our Community Coding Classes! Taking on a new project while still feeling vulnerable about it has led to big learning for all of us.

Now, it’s time for you to do the same!


P. S. Interested in starting coding in your classroom? Already coding?  Use the hashtag my students and I created: #Code4TN. Your work just might inspire someone else to give it a try.

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