Fact: Children love toys. Who am I kidding? Everyone loves toys. So when “toys” are brought into the classroom, students think it is one of the greatest things to have happened since fidget spinners and slime. Teaching coding with robotics allows for that perception; toys in the classroom. While students are using iPads to program robots like the Wonder Workshop Dash, they do not recognize they are learning things like sequencing, problem solving, collaboration, and maybe even the robo-boogie.
Robo Boogie Gif Link via Flight of the Conchords
But after this moment of perceived play, what do students think? Was it just fun and games? Was it only to provide a brief respite from the typical trials and tribulations of the nine circles of school? Do they recognize they have started to learn a skill that could turn into a career one day? Depending on how these robo-play/robo-code sessions are led, students may not have any idea what coding and/or robots can do outside of the classroom, besides the idea of a toy and/or video game.
Enter Code Career Day.
Hidahl Elementary School in Ceres, CA, a school in Stanislaus County, has started incorporating coding into their annual Career Day. This event has local businesses and organizations speak to students about careers and the importance of education. They have reached out to the COE, though, to incorporate robotics and coding.
This is where I come in.
Explaining to students how coding and robotics can still be considered fun when career, future, and adulthood are concerned. How am I perfect for this topic, you ask? I graduated college with a History degree and now work with technology. How does that even work?! What helped push me to this wonderful Ed Tech area was a sense of “playing” with code. I learned basic html coding through a once popular website called MySpace. I wanted my profile to look, what the kids at one time referred to as “cool,” with animated gifs and such, and needed html to make that happen. I took something that was being done for fun, a blinged-out MySpace page, and ended up learning a skill, on my own, that I could use more readily than much of the history I had learned while earning my degree.
While this is not meant to undercut a college education (we all know that is very important), I do think it is important to recognize that something I learned at the end of my high school tenure, that was not in class, helped secure a career in Ed Tech. Cannot the same be said for coding and robotics today? But, while I learned these things outside of school, students now have the opportunity to do so in class through STEAM labs, Robotics Clubs, Hour of Code activities, and Code Career Days. Students can learn these powerful skills of coding and programming with robotics at school, many times, for free. With resources like ccode.org, Code Combat, Codecademy, Twine, and Lego Bits and Bricks learning about and how to code is now fun. Having schools incorporate coding into a career day takes this idea to the next level by not only showing that it is an important skill, but also something that can be used to earn a living.
When we present on coding, we always touch on the many careers available because of this technological language. Starting with the incredible (sending a robot to another planet) and ending with fun (Dabbing Robots); touching on how websites are made, and briefly mentioning those things no kid is really aware of…uh…videogames, and how they are all made or operated using a language of code.
What are some famous robots you know of? How is coding/programming used in your life? A couple questions we ask students. A million other ways code is being used in our students’ lives offers up a plethora of student-led examples.
Should these ideas take away from the sense of wonder and amazement that students have when robots or coding is done at school? Of course not. Can we instill in them an idea that learning can be fun and productive instead? Of course. Plus, doing these things gives us teachers a chance to play with “toys” at school as well. Empowering students through code, offering examples of future use of code in multiple job opportunities, and conditioning students to view learning as a perpetual goal and not something that ends after school is why a Code Career Day is always successful.