Saline School Board Hears About Coding Classes, Technology Matters

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 02/15/2018 - 11:38
Mary Ledford and pupils at the Feb. 13 Saline school board meeting.
Mary Ledford and several of her second-grade pupils talked about their cross-curricular coding lessons during the Feb. 13 Saline school board meeting.

Two technology-related items were on the agenda at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Saline Area Schools Board of Education, a presentation on coding in grade school by teacher Mary Ledford and a few of her pupils, and a presentation on the district’s Goal 4 regarding the school’s "digital ecosystem."

Ledford, a second grade teacher at Woodland Meadows talked about the growing importance of knowing how to code and how that is taught at the elementary school level.

Ledford emphasized that learning coding skills can be a cross-curricular learning experience, including math, language skills, and social studies.

“Coding is a language used to create apps and websites,” she said. Ledford noted that she starts pupils with "unplugged" activities first, such as giving and following directions and special relationships, before moving on to plugged activities on an iPad or smartphone.

Because coding is a language, it is easy to make parallels to language skills. For instance, a piece of code start with a flag the way a sentence starts with a capital letter, and both a coded program and a piece of writing has a beginning, middle and end.

Many grade school teachers use https://code.org/ to help teach coding at a basic level. Ledford and her students asked school board trustees and audience members to follow a link to a practice area on code.org where they could practice writing a simplified code that helps the Star Wars character BB-8 get from one area to another, and second grade pupils were on hand to help trustees who ran into trouble with the assignment (see the slideshow at the end of this article).

Saline Post readers can also try their hand at the exercise at http://bit.ly/codesw.

Ledford also noted that pupils are working on coding a Saline History app that will be unveiled toward the end of the current school year.

In related news, the school district's Goal Group 4 committee talked about combining the "financial solvency" piece of the district’s strategic framework with the district’s goals surrounding educational technology and flexible, “next generation” classrooms.

The committee members said they were working on a "digital ecosystem" hub that would be an online space that is "a multi-user, customized learning environment" where users can create, store, reuse, manage, access and deliver digital learning.

They also talked about redesigning classrooms so that they are more conducive to different learning styles, and doing away with the traditional classroom configuration of desks all in a row and a teacher at the front of the classroom behind a desk. Certain designs are more appropriate for distributing information from an expert, while another sort of classroom design can foster more collaboration. Students also need quiet retreats from time to time.

A prototype classroom based on these ideas will soon be offered to all students and teachers in kindergarten through 3rd grade, committee members said.

As part of the financial responsibility piece of the committee’s work, they said the sinking fund and bond issue recently approved by voters would allow the district to match a funding source to each of these goals.

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Sarah Rigg
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. She has worked in community journalism for over 20 years covering education, business, arts & culture and other topics as a reporter, with experience in copy editing, layout, and proofreading.