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Find out about computational thinking, Computer Science (CS) and coding – what they are, why we need to teach them and how to do this. We also share some resources which allow you to explore augmented reality.

So, what is computational thinking, Computer Science and coding?

Computational thinking is a way of problem solving, designing systems and thinking like a computer scientist (Wing, 2012)  In the video below, Google identify four facets of a computational thinking (CT) approach to problem solving:

  • decomposition – breaking something down, figuring out the parts and how to divide a task
  • pattern recognition – what is similar – can I use this to make predict what’s next
  • abstraction – what are the general principles that generate these patterns?
  • algorithm design – developing step by step instructions to solve similar problems

Computer Science is the science looking at what computers can and can’t do, how to approach problems and make computers better and more useful. Areas of computer science include programming, software engineering, information theory, algorithms, databases and graphics.

Coding, in the simple terms, is telling a computer what you want it to do with step-by-step commands. Just like people have different languages, there are different computer languages.

So, why teach digital technologies at school?

Our curriculum is changing – Digital technology is going to be fully integrated into our NZ Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa in 2018, to support young people to “develop skills, confidence and interest in digital technologies and lead them to opportunities across the IT sector” (MOE, 2016).

The MoE is currently designing the new curriculum content for years 1-13. Content will be shaped around six themes: 

  • Algorithms.
  • Data representation.
  • Digital applications.
  • Digital devices and infrastructure.
  • Humans and computers.
  • Programming (Edgazette, 2016)

Some well-known and respected programmers and Computer Scientists, including Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook),  Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Ruchi Sanghvi (Facebook), Vanessa Hurst (Girl Develop It), and Hadi Partovi ( share why they think it is important to teach computer coding:

Resources for teaching and learning

Here are some resources to help as you design lessons and projects which incorporate coding or computational thinking, that link to the achievement objectives, key principles and the key competencies of the NZ Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Computer Science Resources:

CS Unplugged is a free & open source series of learning activities that teach Computer Science without a computer. It has been designed by New Zealand Professor Tim Bell. The idea is that students can experience the kinds of questions and challenges that computer scientists experience, but without having to learn programming first.

Google CS First clubs aim to  introduce computer science to students. The CS First curriculum is free and easy to use — no computer science experience required!

Computer Science Field Guide is an online interactive resource for high school students learning about computer science.

Coding Resources: has free, self-paced lessons. Teachers can create a class group, assign lessons and track progress.

Scratch is a great place to start. This free, open source computer language has code-blocks that students can drag and drop to create interactive games /activities. Scratch online accounts require an email address –  you can use a personal /school email or teacher or parent/guardian email address). Teachers cannot create an class group to easily monitor groups.

Code Academy has free lessons about HTML, CSS, Python, Javascript, Ruby, SQL, PHP and more.

Gamefroot is a NZ based program that promotes learning code through game development and helping teachers put it into practice. Using Gamefroot, teachers can also develop, test and publish educational games and make them accessible to their colleagues. The resource section shares some lessons for how you can use Gamefroot to meet some of the requirements of the NZ Curriculum and NCEA.  Depending on your needs, there may be a cost involved in using Gamefroot.

Tynker offers self-paced online courses for children to learn coding, program and build games, Minecraft mods, apps and more. Teachers can create a group, assign one of the 6 free ‘programming 100’ lessons and work on collaborative projects.  After the ‘free’ lessons, there are coding, STEM and robotics courses which a school could purchase.

CodeCombat is a game that teaches programming (Python and JavaScript, with Java coming soon). It uses typed code not drag-­and­-drop blocks. You can create a teacher account where you can set up a classrooms, monitor students’ progress as they work through courses, manage licenses and access resources.

Khan Academy has free programming tutorials on how to build graphics, animations, interactive visualizations etc.

Hour of Code has free one-hour tutorials in over 45 languages. No previous experience is needed.  It has reached “tens of millions of students in 180+ countries”

NZ Coding and CS Clubs:

Code Club for (NZ) Teachers is an online community for teachers who are learning to code. They have missions (coding challenges) and a discussion category for each mission.

AU/NZ CS teachers is an online community for computer science & digital technology teachers in Australia & New Zealand.
Code Club Aotearoa have after school coding clubs run by volunteers.

 OMG Tech! volunteers run very cool future tech workshops for school children – with some computational thinking activities- there is more info about their other workshops in the next post on Makerspaces.

Robogals Globa is a student run organisation that aims to inspire and empower young women to consider studying engineering and related fields. They offer free workshops focused on encouraging girls from primary to secondary school to explore an interest, as well as cultivate self-confidence, in these areas.

Gather run hands-on modules for teachers and students which covers a variety of skills from Digital Media: Web Development to Building with jQuery.

try-this-iconTry this

For this Thing we would like you to explore at least one of the resources then blog your reflection:

  • How did you find your computational thinking, Computer Science or coding experience?
  • Do you think there is a place for these in the classroom or not? Why?
  • Share an image about what you created when you explored the resource.

explore-further-iconExplore further

Computational Thinking

Core Education posted about Computational Thinking resources:

You can still access resources from Google’s January 2016 course on Computational Thinking for Educators and the role of CT in the classroom.

You can also use Exploring Computational Thinking (ECT), a curated collection of lesson plans, videos, and other resources on computational thinking (CT).

The CSER Digital Technologies Education Program provides a number of free, open online courses designed to assist teachers in preparing for the new Digital Technologies learning area. Designed for the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum these courses are also applicable in countries introducing computational thinking & coding concepts to the classroom.

Why should students learn to code?

Why Kiwi kids should learn to code by Lee Suckling

Why should schools teach more than basic coding? by Tim Bajarin

Why Teaching and Learning How to Code in Schools by Andoni Sanz from EdTech Review

15 Reasons Why We Should Be Teaching Our Kids To Code by Jayne Clare

Schools teach coding to get ahead of the pack by Eryk Bradshaw from the Sydney Morning Herald

More on coding …

Crunchzilla code-monster, Code Studio or Kodable or apps Daisy the Dinosaur,Hopscotch for iPad

More than 15-ways-of-teaching-students-coding-without-a-computer

Blockly Games is a series of educational games that teach programming. It is designed for children who have not had prior experience with computer programming. By the end of these games, players are ready to use conventional text-based languages.

Made With Code offers free and open source programming projects designed for girls. Girls often start out with a love of science and technology, but lose it somewhere along the way. Made With Code is designed to help encourage that passion in teen girls.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) uses technology to superimpose a computer-generated overlay on the view that the user has of the real world, so a composite view shows (e.g. Pokemon Go location map and the lightsabre in the image). Mixed reality is another name for AR which merges the real and virtual world with virtual reality (VR) technology.
Augmented reality supports  visual learning, provides an more active experience, VR headsets remove outside distractions and provide a way to be immersed in the is useful to:
  • Provide a more active experience – making a place or thing more meaningful.
  • When you wear a VR headset you are focused on what you see without outside distractions.
  • Supports visual learning.

Apps that access AR

The rapid rise of Pokemon Go has raised the profile of AR. For ways to use it in the classroom see Mark Warner’s blog

With Aurasma, you create an “aura” for everyday objects, images, and places turning them into 3D content.  Once you have made your “aura” you can share and use the Aurasma app to view your new 3D creation.

Quiver App has printable colouring pages for many subject areas. With the app, the colouring pages ‘come to life’ with animated actions.

Chromville‘s science-based colouring pages ignite creativity in students.  Students can join the 3D village adventure by colouring in printed pages and choosing a village. The Chromville Visual App uses its characters to promote storytelling and features a classroom component that has colouring pages explaining the likes of the human body and parts of plant.

Elements 4D lets students combine different elements to see chemistry in action. Teachers can print out and assemble blocks that become trigger images for an AR experience. DAQRI’s website also includes lesson plans for using Elements 4D in the classroom.

Google Expeditions is a virtual reality teaching tool that lets you lead or join virtual trips all over the world. It allows you to get up close with historical landmarks, dive underwater with sharks, even visit outer space! Google Expeditions allows a teacher acting as a ‘guide’ to lead classroom-sized groups of ‘explorers’ through collections of 360° and 3D images and point out interesting sights along the way.
 32 Augmented Reality Apps For The Classroom from Edshelf and 20 Augmented Reality apps is also a handy place to start.

Virtual Field Trips: The Pros and Cons of an Educational Innovation by Lilla Robinson

A GfK survey commissioned by Samsung, has a detailed infographic which summaries some of their findings, “Is virtual reality ready for the classroom?” which highlights some of the ways that teachers are or will use virtual reality in the classroom.


Header image: Sarah Jade photography/ CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ

Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License.

23 teaching things is written by Lucie Lindsay and Bronwyn Edmunds at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. #23Teaching

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