April 19, 2015 psweeze

Where does coding fit in the classroom? Part 1 #EastCoastEd

Coding clubs, and teaching coding in general is definitely something that I believe is a priority for our schools. Nevertheless, I see becoming much more valuable if it were to be incorporated within a STEM umbrella. Science, technology, engineering, and math oriented clubs and curriculum have been implemented across North America over the past several years. This shift in focus has been in large part due to a shift towards a knowledge-based economy. Students training themselves within these fields are doing so because they crave intellectually stimulating careers, which offer great job security and great pay.

Although my career has taken me down a path that has been increasingly dominated by technology, both in the classroom and as a mentor, my first love was and always will be science. My original degree was in Marine Biology (which I took here at UNBSJ) and I have always maintained a connection to that field. Whether it is SCUBA diving in this beautiful region on the weekends, teaching it in the classroom, or supporting and organizing the district Science Fair, I have always enjoyed it. In fact, I have attended or been in involved in every District Science Fair since I started teaching. The highlight of this involvement was when I was selected as the regional delegate for Anglophone School District South at the 2013 Canada Wide Science Fair in Lethbridge Alberta. Attending this was extremely influential for me, as I saw empirical evidence of how powerful technology and science can be when combined.


Every stand out project had some aspect of science accompanied with technology. One such project was a product created by a New Brunswick student I was charged with chaperoning that week. This student worked collaboratively with his Family MD to design an app that would allow him to more accurately predict the onset of certain cancers. The work involved in the back end of this app was astounding. That week in Lethbridge I witnessed my two loves come together; technology and science are powerful compatriots.  

Another example I’ve witnessed first hand has been working with the coding club at Saint Malachy’s Memorial High School. Once a week we have been following a format that I think could easily be replicated within other schools, as well as into the classroom. Instead of bringing in an expert to teach students how to program a specific language through a didactic approach, we have asked the students to find a solution to a specific problem. How can they create a device that will take a picture of King Square and give detailed weather conditions when people in the city want it? The planning started organically, and has included students from varying grades and ability levels. This inclusionary model, allows every student to contribute in a multitude of ways. It is moving away from the traditional models of teaching to students, and is involving them in the process of discovery.

What is amazing is that these students are learning core concepts of science (weather conditions and means of measuring them), technology and engineering (how to create, design and code something that measures these conditions). Additionally, it is challenging and engaging for all the students involved. This multidisciplinary approach is something that I would love to see in more classrooms. Saint John and the surrounding area is ripe for this sort of transformation, we just need to take the leap and embrace this opportunity.

To be continued…

To see more of the conversation from the #EastCoastEd chat, check it out below.

Also published on Medium.