Khan Academy and BELL team up to help kids code

2015-09-29 15:40:11 GMT

Guest post from Michael Sikora, Director of Communications at BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life)


“Pick two:  Sculpture, Drawing, Team Sports, Coding, Improv Comedy, Drama, Film Appreciation.”

When the time came for Paolo to select the enrichment activities he wanted to participate in this summer, the opportunity to take a coding class jumped out at him.

“I didn’t really know anything about coding before this summer,” said Paolo. “But I wanted to try it out because I wanted to know how people made video games.”

Along with his peers at Davidson Middle School in San Rafael, California, Paolo learned some of the basics of computer programming as part of his summer learning experience thanks to a collaboration between BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and Khan Academy.

This was the first summer that students – or, “scholars” as they are recognized in BELL’s programs – encountered Khan Academy’s free coding course, Intro to JavaScript, as a summer elective.  The two nonprofit organizations are also expanding individualized learning opportunities for scholars through Khan Academy’s free math resources, based on scholars’ individual needs identified by the results of the pre-program computer adaptive assessments.

Here’s how it all works:  the school leaders and teachers who deliver BELL’s summer learning programs for scholars in grades K-8 can choose to integrate the free Khan Academy math and coding resources into their summer learning plans, based on variables such as scholar needs and technology access.  BELL provides training, instructor guides and resources (such as primers, video tutorials, and sample reports) and ongoing coaching via email and webinars. Teachers, scholars, and parents can all access the math and coding resources, and continue using them after the summer program concludes. In fact, at a site visit at Davidson, Emily Radwin, BELL’s Learning and Assessment Systems specialist, was able to hear from both scholars and staff that many scholars were choosing to work on coding projects at home and on the weekends.

The Khan Academy coding curriculum also allows scholars to work collaboratively in pairs, and has opportunities for scholars to have “free time” and use what they’ve learned to work on free-form coding projects.

“One of the most rewarding things for me is to see the class so engaged by the curriculum,” said Anne Carmin, a teacher at the Davidson Middle School. “Scholars are excited to be here.”

You read that correctly: the opportunity to learn about computer programming, while also honing their academic skills, motivates scholars and makes them excited to spend a big part of their summer – five weeks, five days per week, six hours per day - at school.

“I like that we get to try out new things each day,” said Hendy.  One of his favorite activities was creating clouds with his newfound coding skills.  Jossie agreed.  “I like that we get to try new things here at BELL. When I started with coding, I didn’t know anything about the subject.  I started asking for help, and now I really like it.”

Read more about the summer learning scene in San Rafael in this article by the Marin Independent Journal, and learn more about how the math and coding activities work in BELL’s summer learning programs.  

Have you used Khan Academy’s Intro to JavaScript curriculum? Tell us your story in the comments below!