16 December 2014

Algebra on a Chromebook: Coding with Bootstrap

Have you ever wanted to code in the classroom to integrate more STEM projects, but felt tied into making sure you hit all your required curriculum?

Bootstrap (www.bootstrapworld.org) is a complete curricular resource for math teachers who want to integrate coding into their algebra instruction and computer science teachers who want to integrate and support their students' math learning.  Students learn the logic and spatial reasoning necessary to translate into "real" coding languages while working with operations, functions, and the coordinate plane. It's a real two-for-one!

What Will I Find?
The Bootstrap website has everything you will need to implement the Bootstrap curriculum in your Algebra 1 class (except for the technology hardware, of course)
  1. Student workbook (and teacher edition)
  2. Unit pages for students to follow through and fill in their workbook
  3. WeScheme online coding environment (this is called an IDE, for "integrated development environment," which just means, "this is where you write the code for your website or webapp.")
  4. Alignment to common core standards
  5. Teacher notes (displayed on the same page students use to read instructional content)
  6. Professional development videos to help you understand coding-specific words or processes before you have to share with your class.
How Will My Students Do This on Their Chromebooks?
Some of the work in the Bootstrap units will take place in the online modules, some will be handwritten on paper or whiteboards, and some will be in an IDE like WeScheme (when kids are building their projects)

In other words, students will use their Chromebooks for viewing lesson content, collaborating, and writing their code. 

Why Should I Do This Instead of Focusing on Raising Tests Scores? Accreditation is Very Important for Us.
I believe this question can be answered with three more. How's your more traditional curriculum working for all of your student? Is everyone mastering the Algebra content? Are your students learning content for a test, or are you giving them a vision for something more?

In my personal experience, the number of students that come into my Algebra 1 class that are being successful in "normal" classes continues to fall. We still have students that can excel in those environments and can play the school game, but I see a growing divide between those and the others. Going through the laundry list of things our district is trying to target, the bootstrap curriculum gives me opportunity to still do plenty in reading technical content, writing for assessment and understanding, and providing engaging, relevant work.

How Else Could I Sell This to My Administrator and My Colleagues?
Here are some talking points that should cover most of your bases-
  • "The units are aligned to the common core."
  • "Students will have an end product to demonstrate their learning at the end of the semester."
  • "They provide a pre and post test to gather data on the curriculum's effectiveness."
  • "Coding is a highly relevant and marketable skill for getting our students college and career-ready."
  • "Feel free to come visit and ask my kids about their work at any time. :)"

Is the Bootstrap curriculum for everyone? Maybe not - if you have no interest in coding yourself, then I think you would have a hard time getting your students passionate about learning themselves. Some students are just as averse to "new" or "different" in education as your teaching colleagues, so you'll need to be sold on the idea yourself to get them on board. That's not to say you already need to know everything about coding. The teacher notes are very helpful, and I went from totally confused to amazed at the idea of "circles of evaluation" and how they can help increase my students' UNDERSTANDING of the process and necessity of order of operations.

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Thanks for sharing!