In our continuing week long series around the Hour of Code we sat down with Jamie Ewing, 5th grade teacher from Mount View Elementary School, in Seattle, Washington. We were excited to talk to an elementary teacher who has done so much with coding in the elementary environment. Enjoy Jamie’s thoughts on Hour of Code Activities, coding in elementary, and the overall importance of coding.
What events you are planning for the Hour of Code week?
The 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders will be using Scratch and FlexiMusic to create a “Video Avatar and Opening Theme Song” about their life. Students will also have the option to use Processing.org and write actual code to draw pictures of themselves. I like to keep the options open as students gravitate toward different tools. I have been teaching with Scratch for over 7 years and LOVE this tool. I use it in math, reading and now in a media arts specialist role where we integrate art, music and technology!
Discuss that partnership with code.org and the impact on your school culture.
I have a personal connection with code.org as I am the only educator that is featured in the code.org original short film
I have am a huge supporter of their work! Our district last year had a connection with code.org and worked with them to support teachers who were teaching coding in the classroom.
Can fifth graders really code? Many people link of coding as a high school or college and beyond skill, why are they wrong?
I actually started with my third graders coding today and I know of students as young as kindergarten that code in their classrooms. It is really a mindset, if you think they can…they will! I really think that teachers are more afraid of it than the students. My students love using it as a tool, an endless road of possibilities. Don’t think of it as teaching coding or programming, that is the wrong way to approach it. Think of it merely as a vehicle to do so much more in your classroom. I’ve used to in science fairs to have students present their work than make it available for viewing around the world: a global science fair. I have students put all of their understanding from math into presentations or create games for learning! Students create eBOOKs to help teach younger students to learn their alphabets. The key is to get students to understand that this is just a simple tool that they can make huge. Possibilities are only limited by yours and their creativity!
Here is a video I made for the science project:
What differences have you found between girls and boys and coding?
It is interesting, I find my female students are much more creative and will take more chances being wrong than my male students. This results in much better work from the female students. What I hope for is more female students going into this field, writing their ticket! The students that I see doing the best work and making the most growth are Special Ed students and ELL students. Programming is very literal and these students excel! (WHICH makes them experts in the class and brings their confidence to a whole new level) When I ask one of my Special Ed students why it was so important that we learn this way she replied, “I feel smart!’ If, for no other reason, is why we need to teach coding and programming at the elementary level.
Why is it important for kids to code?
The simplest of reasons: it builds problem solving skills and critical thinking. That’s it! I can’t say it is going to prepare them for the 21st century or a good job, I have NO idea what the jobs are even going to be when they get out of high school or college. But I can say that it will prepare them for a world that doesn’t exist yet. To make them ready for a work environment that we are just starting to see develop. I can say that my students are prepared to be global citizens.
Jamie Ewing is a National Board Certified Teacher, a 2013 Innovative Teacher of the Year recognized by the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Education, a National Education Association (NEA) Fellow, and an NEA Master Teacher with Better Lessons. Microsoft inducted Ewing into its Expert Educator Program last year.
Jamie was named a 2014 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) LearningMedia Digital Innovator. The fifth-grade teacher is the only Washington State educator among the 100 teachers from around the country selected this year.
Ewing was selected by PBS for his dedication and passion for innovative teaching practices that integrate digital media and technology in the classroom. He has developed a number of digital media and technology programs at Mount View, including:
- Curriculum for all fifth-grade students at Mount View that teaches basic computer programming and coding skills.
- Virtual science fair, which allows students to explore earth systems, design related science experiments, and present their experiments as interactive web games, videos, or PowerPoint presentations.
- An engineering project that allows students to design and build two-wheel tractors.
- Partnership with BING to provide students an opportunity to create career- and college-focused photography projects.
- The eMAGINATION LAB after-school program, which focuses on animation and computer programming.