Monday, April 1, 2019

Teach Coding with the Expanded Core!

Teach Coding Using the Expanded Core Curriculum graphic
I have been loving teaching STEM as part of my Expanded Core instruction. There are so many areas where you can overlap both and have meaningful instruction. Coding can be difficult for students with vision impairments. There are some new things coming out to help with this but in the meantime, what do we do? Coding is often not accessible because most assistive technology readers are for text recognition. Coding programs are often object recognition and not accessible with screen readers. I did a lot of research about how we can still teach the foundations of coding. There are a ton of good ideas with teaching offline coding. Offline coding teaches the principles of coding without using a computer. It's not completely ideal (since we do want to teach all of coding for our students) but it does have a lot of ECC benefits. 

The offline coding cards are scattered on a table.
You can buy a variety of different offline coding activities from sites like Teachers Pay Teachers (I love that site!!). I have a new robotics unit that I developed and coding or programming is the foundation skillset. I needed to make sure that these skills were solid before applying them to the actual robots. Many of the lesson plans that I could purchase weren't super accessible. The main problems were too cutsy fonts that weren't easily read by students. I decided to research and learn about making my own coding cards. See the pictures above and below for what I made. I used a nice clear font with contrast in specific places. I also organized them with the same layout--meaning that there is an object or logo on top (so that students can learn to read or code by object), the directions (turn left/right, go straight, etc.). Last, there is a square box and that is where we use mini post it notes to indicate the number (i.e. spin around 4 times, repeat 2 times, etc.). We laminated them. I'll admit that I was nervous about using traditional laminate. I almost used the non-glare laminate. My students ended up being good with traditional laminate but always consider that when laminating. Then my best para in the world made all the Braille labels for me. 

Offline coding cards are scattered on a table

The first half of my lesson is all about teaching what writing a good program means. I include how specific their line of code has to be. Then we discuss each card so that everyone is on the same page with instruction. I have the students stand up and do this. Everyone turns right, left, goes straight, etc. so that they can perform the task exactly. You will get great ideas from STEM teacher blogs about their ideas with teaching this. I put my ECC hat on because I knew that I was working some good OM skills with this. I made sure the students could execute a 90 degree turn or 180 degree turn with good foot placement. You can do this for typically developing students and for students that have additional disabilities. For students who need more basic lesson plans, we stick to following the directions from the line of code. My typical students continue to more complex coding and I include if/then situations for them. 

An image of a students hands reading the Braille labels on the coding cards
This is a great team building project too. Now I can incorporate other ECC areas in this as the students work to program lines of code for each other to follow. They have to work together to make sure that the student does exactly what the line says. They problem solve and inspect their own work. Once they get a good feel for it, they program  for me. They have the challenge to get me from a designated point one to a point two with an obstacle. I do exactly what they say. They have to get me from a chair on one side of the room to the door. We use tactile maps and other supports as we put together a line of code to make this happen. Are you getting ideas on how you can infuse ECC skills?? I have students write me a line of code to get a backpack from a locker, go into the kitchen and get a snack, etc. You can do so much more than orientation & mobility with this AND you are teaching STEM! Want a set of my offline coding cards? Send me an email and I'm happy to share (FREEBIE!!). You just have to do your own Braille ;)

A female student arranges the cards into a line of code
STEM & the Expanded Core are a great mashup of learning. So many opportunities for our students!

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