Learning to code has been called the most important 21st-century skill. Tangibles, or physical objects designed to embody mathematical concepts, have been proven as crucial to development and approachable for kids.
Chicago is rich in culture and creative opportunities to learn in a productive environment throughout different community programs and schools. Frances Judd displays that educational diversity through her work as an educational coordinator at Bennett Day School in Fulton Market District. Ms. Judd also had the opportunity to coordinate an educational research project at BBF Family Services in North Lawndale last summer. The following interview discusses how Frances Judd creates unique and deliberate STEM based learning opportunities by using Osmo Coding, the first iPad game that teaches kids to code in the most intuitive way possible: with their hands.
What are some of the advantages of kids learning to code at a young age?
During the early years while learning symbolic codes of letters, words, arrows and numerals, students find it extremely empowering to discover that these can be used to program a robot, or to instruct an onscreen character through an iPad adventure. Chicago children who experience such connections find learning to be authentically meaningful, relevant, and exciting. This is a true advantage.
How can this game specifically change the lives of children in Chicago's inner city?
Computational thinking requires strategic thought and sequencing of ideas to make things happen. In Osmo Coding, players find it empowering to use strategy and interesting programming blocks to control an onscreen character. When visiting North Lawndale's BBF Family Services last summer, I met children who excelled at working in collaborative partnerships to do just that. We want Chicago children to be tech savvy individuals, motivated students, and strategic thinkers.
City kids need learning spaces where they can feel in control, and where they can innovate to solve problems. At Bennett Day School in Chicago's Fulton Market District, we embed early robotics, coding, and STEM investigations into our TinkerLab explorations. We also take neighborhood walks and navigate our city grid in a manner that is similar to the onscreen programming grid in Osmo Coding.
Tell us how Osmo Coding has impacted your students?
Students who work with Osmo Coding are empowered to experiment and explore as they arrange handheld program pieces to instruct a friendly onscreen character. By blending digital engagement and hands-on learning, Osmo offers a playful environment where students can improve proficiency and create increasingly long programming threads. Interestingly, after using Osmo Coding at Bennett Day School, I began to see First Grade students working together to invent their own tangible coding blocks. Any learning material that inspires constructive student invention is powerful learning tool.
How can parents follow up around the city of Chicago with other activities that encourage STEM education outside of school?
I encourage parents to take advantage of the STEM learning opportunities found at the Tinkering Lab in the Chicago Children's Museum. For those with older children, try 3D printing as a family project using the free Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library. Enjoy STEM investigations at home that involve old tech, new tech, no tech...and imagination! Encourage "design thinking" that includes trial & error learning with plenty of room for mistakes, refinement and iteration. And lastly, for very young children, have fun playing games in which simple arrows are used as computer code to direct each other in pretend games of "robot."
To learn more about Osmo Coding check out: www.playosmo.com