Coding – and computational thinking in general — is one of the most in-demand skills in today’s job market, but not so long ago, learning to code was mostly out of reach for late-middle school and secondary students. Coding wasn’t taught in the typical classroom, and educators – unless they had a computer science background – weren’t equipped to teach it.
All of that changes with Microsoft’s Creative Coding with Games and Apps (CCGA) curriculum, training and resources. These new tools promote the development of computational thinking skills, and get your students excited about computer science by teaching them how to code in a real software development environment as they design, program and publish mobile apps and games. And – importantly — CCGA curriculum is officially endorsed by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and is aligned to its K-12 computer science standards – a core set of learning objectives which provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum and its implementation.
Making coding accessible
The CCGA curriculum works with Microsoft Touch Develop, a powerful and engaging coding tool that lets students create fun games and real-world apps. For students at Buckhorn High School in Perry County, Kentucky, Touch Develop proved to be the perfect introduction to coding.
Recent Buckhorn grad Anna Stamper, who just began her freshman year at Eastern Kentucky University, explains, “The way Touch Develop is set up is that everything is really simple to use. If you don’t know how to do something there’s a tutorial, or somebody’s already done it in another game that you can look at. And it was just a really fun learning experience to see all the different things you can do with Touch Develop.”
Under the direction of Kim Campbell, who teaches business education, Buckhorn students not only learned how to code, they made a difference in their school community. At the start of the project, neither Campbell nor her students had any coding experience.
“We decided that we were going to reach out to the teachers and the members of our Board of Education to find out what we could use Touch Develop to create,” Campbell tells us, “[We were looking for something] that can improve test scores, student learning, and classroom environment.”
They learned that primary grade students most needed help with learning basic math concepts. In response, the students created the game Space Math. The game worked so well, it was sent to other schools inside and outside the district, who were taught to use it. Best of all, the game helped the students beat out 5,000 other showcase projects to take first place in the Kentucky SLTP (Student Technology Leadership Program) competition.
Everything a teacher needs
For educators like Campbell, who are new to coding and computational thinking, the idea of teaching this critical skill can be intimidating. That’s why Microsoft is offering courses to empower you to unlock your students’ potential.
Even if you have no previous coding experience, you can take a self-paced, video-on-demand course, or register for an in-person MIE Teacher Academy CCGA workshop. Either way, you’ll learn about Microsoft Touch Develop, computational thinking design principles and general coding concepts, as well as getting familiar with the CCGA curriculum.
The curriculum, which is free and available to anyone, includes teacher prep materials, lesson plans, presentations, student assignments, projects, tests and more. It even includes self-paced online training for your students that works on any modern browser, on any device.
At Tolt Middle School in Washington State, teachers without a computer science background are using the CCGA curriculum to encourage collaboration and keep students motivated.
According to technology teacher Mark Klune, “What I would say to other teachers who are thinking about teaching the course: do it! It’s a lot of fun, the kids love it, and it doesn’t matter how experienced they are. They’re going to be happy, and they’re going to get it. They’re going to take to it very quickly.”
For Heather L. Daniel, a business and information technology educator from Virginia Beach, Virginia, CCGA was a perfect fit. “The curriculum is complete with various lessons and activities that are well organized which allowed me to implement it into my classroom with ease,” Daniel says. “My students…gained exposure to computer science concepts, which gave them the desire and foundation to take additional computer programming courses.”
North Carolina Business and IT teacher Nancy Stevens tells us, “[CCGA] establishes foundational knowledge for students that take AP Computer Science Principles in my school. The curriculum is a complete package of quality materials, and I really appreciate the detailed lesson plans that are ready for implementation.”