Tips for teaching technology to Kindergarten students

May 31, 2015 by wendy


Kindergarten Student
Kindergarten scout by Mats Eriksson is licensed under CC by 2.0

Yesterday, I tuned in to a webinar called “How to introduce technology to the kindergarten classroom” hosted by KinderLab Robotics. The webinar outlined 4 strategies for teaching technology, as well as science, engineering, and mathematics, or in other words, STEM, to young children.

1. Integrate STEM into existing curricula

When STEM is integrated into existing subjects and not taught as a separate topic, students develop different perspectives and new understandings on those subjects. They also see how STEM can be useful in other areas.

2. Support open-ended and imaginative play

Children as young as 4 years old can begin to understand logic and programming concepts, such as sequencing, and cause and effect. However, they learn best when they’re moving, experimenting, and playing. So it’s important to provide an environment that allows for movement and supports their imagination.

3. Create opportunities for group work

Social interaction is key to a young child’s learning process. Collaboration also gives each child the opportunity to contribute in his or her own way, and it shows that by working together, they can build something completely different.

4. Make it fun

Making STEM education fun encourages students to continue exploring and experimenting, and it’s important for teachers to have fun too!

About KinderLab Robotics

KinderLab Robotics specializes in creating new technologies for young children. KIBO, their robotics kit, is designed for children aged 4 to 7, and it allows them to build, program, and decorate a robot without using a tablet or computer. Mitch Rosenberg, CEO at KinderLab Robotics, and Marina Umaschi Bers, chief scientist at KinderLab Robotics and professor at Tufts University, created KIBO based on over a decade of research on learning technologies and youth development.




How to teach coding without a computer

May 25, 2015 by wendy


Board game
Dragon on the River by David Goehring is licensed under CC by 2.0

Teaching coding away from the computer is a fun and easy way to introduce computer science concepts to children. It also supports new perspectives and understandings, and it encourages social interaction, which helps with their learning process.

Children learn how to think logically, how to sequence instructions, and how to recognize patterns and cause-and-effect relationships. These strategies are important for everyone!

Here are a few resources that teachers can incorporate into their classrooms and parents can use at home.

Code Monkey Island

Code Monkey Island is a board game, in which players must guide their monkeys into the banana grove. It teaches children how to think strategically and how to adapt to different situations, and at the same time, it teaches computer science fundamentals including sequencing, loops, and conditionals. Visit codemonkeyplanet.com for details.

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Cost: $34.99 USD

Code.org

Code.org has a collection of free unplugged activities that teach computer science concepts, such as binary numbers, sequencing, and conditionals. Students learn by encoding their initials in binary, programming each other to stack cups, and designing and playing card games. Visit code.org/learn for more information.

  • Ages: All
  • Cost: Free!

CS Unplugged

CS Unplugged has numerous free activities that teach various concepts ranging from binary numbers to interface design. Their activities engage students through games and puzzles, and teachers and parents are encouraged to modify and share their own versions. Visit csunplugged.org/activities to check them out.

  • Ages: 5 to 12
  • Cost: Free!

Robot Turtles

Robot Turtles is a board game in which players work together to move their turtles to their matching coloured jewels. Dan Shapiro, a software entrepreneur, invented the game so that he could play with his children and teach them basic programming concepts at the same time. Visit robotturtles.com to learn more.

  • Ages: 3 to 8
  • Cost: $27.99




Thank you, Free Geek!

May 21, 2015 by wendy


Laptops

At Marshmallow Coding, we’d like to express our sincere gratitude to Free Geek Vancouver for providing us with 6 laptops through their hardware grants program.

Our story with Free Geek

When I first started thinking about the types of programs that Marshmallow Coding would offer, I thought that Scratch would be great for children who could read, but what about children who were younger?

Through my research, I found the LEGO Education WeDo Construction Set, which introduces children to robotics. They can build models by combining traditional LEGO bricks with motors and sensors, and then program the motors and sensors using an icon-based programming language within the WeDo software.

I was excited to have found this new resource, but I was missing a couple of things: the LEGO sets and computers to run the WeDo software. Luckily, a friend introduced me to Adrian, Production Coordinator at Free Geek Vancouver, who told me about their hardware grants program.

Hardware grants made easy

Adrian was wonderful to work with throughout the grant process. After submitting an online application, he followed up with some questions, and along the way, he kept me informed of their progress. Then a couple of weeks ago, he told me they had 6 laptops ready for pickup. I finally met Adrian in person as well as their Laptop Build Coordinator. They made sure I had everything that I needed, helped me to my car, and informed me of Open Help Night on Wednesdays in case I ever needed free support.

Robotics for kids coming soon

Now that we have the laptops, our next step is to acquire the LEGO sets. We hope to launch our robotics program next year, and Free Geek will have made that possible. To learn more about Free Geek, visit the Free Geek website.




When is a child too young for screen time?

May 14, 2015 by wendy


tablet-screens
Tablets by Martin Voltri is licensed under CC by 2.0

With phones, tablets, and computers being a part of our everyday lives, as parents, you’re probably wondering whether or not screen time is healthy for your children, especially for your youngest. I decided to investigate and here’s what I found.

Screen time for infants and toddlers

In 2011, The New York Times published an article called, “Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest,” in response to the American Academy of Pediatrics advising parents to limit the amount of time their infants and toddlers spend in front of video screens. The article quoted several experts, including Dr. Georgene Troseth, a psychologist at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor at Temple University. Dr. Troseth claimed that infants and toddlers “just have no idea what’s going on” when watching video screens, and Dr. Hirsh-Pasek claimed that when children interact with real people, they produce and understand more language.

In 2013, The Telegraph published an article called, “How Young is Too Young for Technology?” which stated that 80 percent of a child’s brain growth occurs in the first three years. Although there’s no evidence, there’s concern that too much technology during the first three years could affect a child’s ability to socialize.

What about after the first three years?

According to a story on Spotlight, a publication supported by the MacArthur Foundation, social interaction is key to a young child’s learning process. The story quoted Lisa Guernsey, director of Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, who said that young children need social partners, like teachers, parents, and siblings, so that they can identify facial expressions and reactions.

The story included Dr. Ellen Wartella, professor of Communication Studies and Psychology at Northwestern University, who stated that when considering whether screen time is good or bad, one must also think about the content, the context, and the child. Is the content educational? Is the child interacting with a social partner? What are the needs of the child?

So not all screen time is equal?

Based on the above articles, it seems that not all screen time is equal. Parents must take into account the content, the context, and their child. For the first three years, learning by interacting with others appears to be the most effective, but after the first three years, screen time can facilitate learning and social interaction if combined with the right content and context.




Tech for Kids and Marshmallow Coding team up

May 13, 2015 by wendy


Child using iPad
Kobe Drawing by Marcus Kwan is licensed under CC by-sa 2.0

For every elementary school that receives a computer donation from Tech for Kids, Marshmallow Coding will provide up to 10 free coding lessons.

Today, we’re excited to announce our partnership with Tech for Kids! Tech for Kids is a non-profit organization that aims to empower kids with technology. Every quarter, they gather and refurbish computers to donate to schools, families, and organizations that need computers to educate children.

Computers and coding together

With our new partnership, for every elementary school that receives a computer donation from Tech for Kids, Marshmallow Coding will provide up to 10 free coding lessons. To date, Tech for Kids has donated computers to Lord Roberts Elementary, Strawberry Hill Elementary, and Renfrew Elementary, and there are more donations to come.

Shared vision and values

At Marshmallow Coding, we’re thrilled to be partnering with another organization that also values making technology education accessible for all children, and working together to give back to our community. If you know a school in Metro Vancouver that needs computers, or you’d like more information, visit the Tech for Kids website.





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