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Technology Articles

Technology Articles

Coding Engages Various Skill Levels 

Coding Engages Various Skill Levels 

Did you know that SAA teaches our students to code beginning in Pre-k? Computer Technology Director, Alan Gielen, uses software such as Kodable, an online program targeted to primary through 5th graders, to introduce the concept, and then build on those methods to develop various skill levels. Alan began incorporating coding into the computer technology curriculum in 2012, when the software program became available.

The Kodable platform introduces children to colorful, rolling fuzz balls, called Smebergs. Students design algorithms -- self-contained, step-by-step instructions -- to move the Smebergs along two-dimensional pathway mazes. The player maneuvers arrows and color-squares into instruction blocks, which gives the Smeberg directions on how to exit the maze. Along the journey, students learn all about the coding world: testing, problem-solving, linear instructions, looping, functions and arrays. Using drag-and-drop JavaScript language, students also learn how to create their own fuzz balls and mazes. While the coding is individualized, boys enjoy publishing their mazes so they can share with their classmates. 

“The developers, Jon Mattingly and Gretchen Huebner, continually update and improve their application,” says Mr. Gielen. This year, the software company introduced a feature that allows students with color-blindness to add patterns to the color blocks, giving them the ability to discern between color-square choices. The colored/patterned blocks are used to make directional-change decisions.  “I applied this feature to one of our 2nd graders and he immediately was able to solve the mazes without difficulty.  Earlier I had noticed [him] struggling, but didn't know he experienced issues with color. Once addressed, and with a little one-one attention, off he went... successfully solving the mazes!

7th & 8th Grade Programming Elective

7th & 8th Grade Programming Elective

Drawing from the popularity of video games, an elective for 7th & 8th graders teaches students JavaScript programming through “modding,” or modifying Minecraft. Minecraft is a “sandbox” game, which allows players to choose different modes of play, and provides an ever- changing environment for the user to contend with. In the game, students can build, fight monsters and construct complex machines using an in-game power resource called redstone.

During the class, boys learn to code in JavaScript using an online self-directed program called “Learn to Mod.” Video tutorials help guide them through the step-by-step instructions to code their mods. Students can also login to a Minecraft server to test their coding. Because the program is entirely online, students also have the opportunity to complete lessons at home as well as at school.

coding mod example 

A fan of Minecraft, eighth grader Ethan Fish was automatically drawn into the JavaScript program even though he had “never really got into programming until now, but [he] would like to pursue a programming career in some form.” This elective, he says “could help shape my future dream job.” And while the Minecraft component wasn’t the draw for seventh grader Ben Weis, he “loves every bit of the elective because he always wanted to know how people coded mods.”

“At the end of the semester, boys will have the opportunity to apply for college prep computer science credit through the University of San Diego by paying a fee and passing a final exam,” says program instructor, Linda Gielen. The Learn to Mod course typically costs $30 per student, but as a school, San Antonio Academy offers the course free to its students.