Coding to Learn: Momentum Grows Beyond “Tech” Classes

Coding to learn continues to grow in popularity and seen as a necessary skill – for everyone, not just “techies.”


Fueled by projected STEM job growth of 9 million between 2012 and 2022 , the call for students to code has been growing over the past few years. Last fall, the non-profit announced “a nationwide campaign calling on every K-12 student in America to join an ‘Hour of Code.’ The initiative asked schools, teachers, and parents across the country to help introduce more than 10 million students of all ages to computer programming during Computer Science Education Week.”
According to Computer Science Education Week, over 39 million have “tried the Hour of Code.”

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And, where coding isn’t taught in school, community organizations, such as Mozilla’s HIVE Learning Network, are springing up and linking schools with community non-profits, and parents are hiring “coding” tutors so their children can dive into the worlds of HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and Python.

The craze for coding to learn is not only a phenomena for the young and old in the U.S., but students worldwide are learning the basics of coding for schools are adding the fun to the curriculum.

The United Kingdom now requires every student learn to code, beginning at age five as demand grows for “’computational thinking’”: the ability to formulate problems in such a way that they can be tackled by computers.

“According to Adam Enbar, founder of New York’s Flatiron School, which offers 12-week, $12,000 programs to turn novices into developers, said, ’Not everyone needs to be Shakespeare, just as not everyone needs to be an amazing developer,’ he says. ‘But…we’re entering a world where every job if not already, will be technical,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

And, if every job will be technical, Harvard Business School has caught the coding bug for plans are underway to add a computer science elective as the “changing nature of the workforce” includes coding for MBAs.

K12 is catching on to the importance of computer science. According to Education Week, “Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now have policies in place that allow computer science to count as a mathematics or science credit, rather than as an elective, in high schools—and that number is on the rise. Wisconsin, Alabama, and Maryland have adopted such policies since December, and Idaho has a legislative measure awaiting final action.”

Some are branching out beyond the traditional computer science course. Keep a keen eye on on the progressive Beaver County Day School. According to Mashable, Beaver County Day School became the first school in the nation to implement computer programming into all of its classes.

“The school isn’t launching mandatory programming courses into the schedule, exactly, but is instead having its teachers introduce coding (ideally, in the most organic ways possible) into their respective subjects. Calculation-heavy courses such as math and science, as well as humanities such as English, Spanish and history — even theater and music — will all be getting a coded upgrade.”

Beaver’s head Peter Hutton believes “‘the current curriculum — which any American who has gone to school in the last century is familiar with — is blatantly outdated…Do schools need to change? Absolutely,” he says. ‘”

“We’re still preparing our kids to go to work in 1988. Certainly not 2020.”
Peter Hutton

While coding to learn resources grow each day, below is a sampling of how teachers are coding to learn with students, and it isn’t just in STEM courses but casts the net wide across content areas.

Take some time to explore these resources and spark interest at your school to participate in Hour of Code.

How are you coding to learn in your classes? Is coding to learn shifting your learning organization from the traditional model? What are your ideas for participating in Hour of Code?


Designs for Deeper Learning

While rethinking the design of classrooms and libraries isn’t new, there is a growing interest in how to transition from traditional, factory-model schools to designing participatory learning spaces to serve today’s students best, as noted in an earlier post.

In his paper Campfires in Cyberspace, futurist and philosopher Dr. David Thornburg uses primordial metaphors and analogies to “clarify the role of various processes and environments” to consider when “creating an educational system geared for leaners and educators.”

He outlines how “learning takes place in four spaces, only a few of which are honored in most schools. [He] offers a new theory for educational systems based on four primordial learning spaces: campfires (information), watering holes (conversation), caves (concept), and life (context).”

It is appropriate to take these same four considerations for educational systems and apply them to “rethinking” the use of space and time in schools, eventually leading to an empowering curriculum, participatory pedagogy, and meaningful assessments.

In a Tweet [10:18 AM – 16 Jul 2014], Digital Strategist and Designer David Jakes noted the following:

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So, yes. There is a caution. As the use of space and time is redesigned, we must make certain that traditional, industrial systems of learning not, as David observed, ”tack on” approaches, such as a Makerspace, Genius Hour, and project-based learning, without deep and thoughtful changes in TWTHABD (The Way Things Have Always Been Done).

How has the use of space and time in your learning organization prompted deep change? How did you overcome TWTHABD? Does your learning organization support learning around campfires, watering holds, and caves? How has your learning organization overcome “tacking on” to the traditional?

Please share your story.

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,


Book “The Alliance” and Lessons for Learning Organzations

Personal branding and Tours of Duty? Can learning organizations learn lessons from the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, which calls for a bold, new blueprint of conducting business?


We realize that lifetime employment in one organization is a thing of the past, especially considering the average U. S. worker median tenure in a current job to be 4.4 years, a trend which is perhaps silently influenced by the invisible “second economy.”

But, whatScreen Shot 2014-07-20 at 2.23.39 PM would happen in learning organizations if we capitalize on a bold, new blueprint of conducting business? Imagine the shift of hierarchical power play giving way to Tours of Duty, networking, and branding based on the mutual benefit of employer and employee? Those are a few founding principles found in the book The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LInkedin, Ben Casnocha, entrepreneur and author, and Chris Yeh, writer and investor.

While organizations cannot innovate if everyone acts as a free agent, the authors contend there is another pattern to growth (Check out their slideshow here.): “Stop thinking of employees as families or free agents” but, rather, regard them as “allies on a Tour of Duty.” The relationship between employee and employer is based on how each can add value to the other, thus, building trust. In this symbiotic relationship, the individual, while building personal brand, focuses on the organization’s success, while the organization increases the individual’s market value.

While the authors admit that the phrase “Tour of Duty” may have military implications and it isn’t a perfect analogy, there is a shared characteristic: “honorably accomplishing a specific, finite mission…with a realistic time horizon.”

Because roles and responsibilities vary, the authors outline three Tours of Duty: Rotational; Foundational; and Transformational. (For more information on the Tours of Duty, click here.) “The tour of duty approach relieves the pressure on you [organization or business] and your employees alike because it builds trust incrementally. Everyone commits in smaller steps and the relationship deepens as each side proves itself.”

The agreement between employee and employer within each Tour of Duty sets out specific growth goals for each. One example: “Over the next 18 months you will develop excellent negotiation skills.”  (Avoiding vagueness, such as gaining “valuable experience,” is key.)

But, what is one important turnkey in this model? The authors acknowledge the benefit of honest conversation and ask a potential employee: What do you want to do once you leave employment here?

There. The elephant in the room is acknowledged and provides the basis for building the symbiotic relationship of trust and success for both parties through Tours of Duty, building value of the organization and the independent individual.

And, even when an employee leaves the organization, the value continues as networks and “know how” remain within reach of the organization, which is able to tap into the web of connections it helped the individual create. (The alumni always stay in touch.)

Wow. I wonder how this upfront frankness about career goals and schools helping their employees grow to transform an organization would pan out. While there are numerous reasons teachers leave the classroom, would these honest conversations help stem the tide of 38% of teachers quitting because of dissatisfaction with administration or the 14% who leave after one year? Are industrial-style schools and slow-moving bureaucracies ready for this truthful conversation with themselves and others, including teachers, students, and parents?

There are some transformational movements taking hold, such as the Center for Teaching Quality’s work on building a new brand of teacher leadership through teacherpreneurs, and Connected Educators Month, to strengthen teacher learning networks and the connections the authors believe valuable. But, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to incubate ideas using this new approach to acknowledge and nurture talent in the networked age? Aren’t there implications not only for teachers but students as well?

I’m game for a discussion. Are you? Interested in a book study? Let’s connect! 

Running the Digital River of Learning with You,


Sylvia Martinez: Maker Movement in Schools

Pay attention as the Maker Movement brings authentic learning to the classroom.

Here, Sylvia Martinez, co-author of Invent to Learn and long dedicated to student-centered, authentic learning, discusses the Maker Movement and its application in schools.


What are you undertaking in your school with the Maker Movement? How are you rearranging time and space in your school to undertake authentic learning in a Maker Space?

Always Learning from Librarians (or is it Databrarians?)

I always learn from librarians: masters of organization, jugglers of information, and searchers of the new.

As noted in the October 17, 2013 Library Journal, the Databrarian is emerging, expanding the traditional role to include new titles and responsibilities such as emerging technologies specialist, user experience designer, digital content management, digital learning librarian, and social media manager.

There is no doubt that databriarins were in full swing at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) this year at the Digital Age Library Playground. (Presenter email addresses and Twitter names are listed! So, you can reach out to them, as I have been doing.)

Sessions ranged from flipping and coding to creating Makerspaces and generating QR Codes; these databriarians were a whirl of action and learning.

The session GeniusCon asked a question of students: If you could change one thing about your school, what would *YOU* do?

Co-founders of GeniusCon Matthew Winner (@MatthewWinner) and Sherry Gick (@libraryfanatic) presented on “how kids from K to college shared their big ideas and how their genius is changing the world.” Matthew and Sherry shared their GeniusCon story – “an event in which students from around the world shared their big ideas to affect social change,” according to The Digital Shift. Wow! More schools should be doing this!

Learn more about GeniusCon in the School Library Journal article With “GeniusCon” Project, Students Connect and Problem Solve and follow their hashtag #geniuscon on Twitter.

What have you learned from librarians? Do you have a databrarian in your school?

The Disaggregation of Education (Beyond Disruption)

Revisiting My Two-Year Old Post: The Disaggregation of Education (Beyond Disruption) It rang true then and even more so today.

Running the Digital River of Learning

We have just crossed – in the past few months – the cusp of The Disaggregation of Education. Even though evolving, the working definition of the disaggregation of education is, after disruption, the education market breaks into smaller pieces. And, the smaller pieces that meet a changing market demand will be the successful ones, impacting all education venues, including higher education. As part of this disaggregation of education, higher education as we  know it just died. While schools of higher education play a role in the immediate future in providing teacher preparation, that will change..

Currently, the change is evidenced by the following:

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Badges to Micro-credentials

In the 2012 New York Times article Show Me Your Badge, Kevin Carey, director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation, outlined the emergence of digital badges and their role in recognizing skills and accomplishments beyond college degrees and certifications.

This year the Badges Alliance was launched at the Summit to Reconnect Learning. The Open Badges Alliance is “…Built upon the groundbreaking Open Badges work initiated by Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation, and framed on a constellation model of Working Groups, the members of the Badge Alliance aim to foster and grow the open badges ecosystem in an intelligent, distributed, and sustainable way.” (I recently joined the Badge Alliance and look forward to participating in this groundbreaking work.)

But, what is the impact on K12 educators? Leave it to the forward-thinking folks at Digital Promise to take the lead in micro-credentials. Similar to Open Badges, the micro-credential provides rigor and is based on competencies as teachers build personalized learning portfolios of artifacts and reflections, providing “market worth” of mastery learning and accomplishments.

Last April, the Center for Teaching Quality invited me and other teacher leaders to submit work to Digital Promise in early rounds of discussion outlining micro-credentials. Renee Moore,  in Mississippi, and I, in Florida, partnered on our submission of a collaborative study of Letter from Birmingham Jail that she and I undertook with our students last year. (I learned quite a bit during the submission process, including providing more focus on student reflections during and after learning.)

At the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Atlanta earlier this month, Digital Promise officially opened up applications for its 2014 summer micro-credentialing pilot. According to Digital Promise, “Once earned, teachers can display their micro-credentials as digital badges. Each digital badge is embedded with metadata that identifies who issued the micro-credential, the date it was earned, and the artifacts submitted to earn it.”

Does this emerging professional development strategy appeal to you? Are you interested in earning micro-credentials?