Terrapin Resources

Coding to Learn

Integrated Computer Science and Computational Thinking

In No Fear Coding: Computational Thinking Across the K–5 Curriculum by Heidi Williams, teachers learn not only why it is important for children to learn to code, but also how teachers can best guide them through the process.

Quotes she includes in her book are definitely food for thought:

“Everyone in this country should learn to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think.”
~ Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.

“Coding is the new literacy. To thrive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to design, create, and express themselves with digital technologies.” ~ Mitch Resnick, professor at the MIT Media Lab

First up in the chapter titled “Why Teach with Physical Computing Devices” is Bee-Bot. As Williams explains, “The Bee-Bot is one example of the tools available to start a learner on the road to mastering computation and critical-thinking skills. This bee-shaped, programmable, physical computing device makes the essential skill of sequencing easy.”

Williams then introduces Dr. Norman Webb’s “Depth of Knowledge” framework and how it can be applied to Bee-Bots. The framework categorizes educational activities according to their level of complex thinking and considers how deeply students must understand and be aware of their own learning.

A powerful vignette from the book shows the power of Bee-Bot in helping students make critical connections in their learning. Students in a first grade class were learning about addition and subtraction. Some of the teacher’s students struggled with the concept of adding two numbers and subtracting a third number (2+5-3). A standard number line didn’t help their understanding, but when the teacher brought out a number line mat designed for Bee-Bots, one student had an “aha!” moment and said, “I get it! I move forward two and then 5 more. After that I move backward three.” As Williams notes, “Seeing the Bee-Bot move on the number line helped the student visualize the concept with a hands-on, kinesthetic activity.”

No Fear Coding is filled with practical lesson ideas from teachers around the country. Links and QR codes sprinkled throughout the book lead readers to online resources they can use to implement the concepts. In addition to an initial focus on Bee-Bots, Williams also shows how Pro-Bots allow students to code and debug their algorithms that involve more complex angles and shapes. The book continues to explore other robots and types of coding for more advanced students.

Williams’s website, nofearcoding.org, offers many additional resources and lesson ideas for teachers seeking to explore computational thinking and coding with their students.

No Fear Coding: Computation Thinking Across the K-5 Curriculum, Second Edition, is published by ISTE (International Society for Technology). Read more about the book.

About the Author
Heidi Williams is a passionate coding and computational thinking advocate. Over her 25+ years of experience in education, she has served as a language, science and mathematics teacher for grades 6–8 and held roles as a differentiation specialist, technology integration specialist, instructional coach, gifted and talented coordinator, elementary principal and K-8 director of curriculum. Williams has shared her passion for integrating coding into the curriculum at local, state, regional and national conferences, and has provided her expertise for conference presentations, coding coaching, professional development and K–12 scope and sequence alignment of computer science skills throughout the curriculum.

Contact Information

Name Heidi Williams
Position Computer Science Curriculum Specialist
School Marquette University
Location Kewaskum, WI
Email heidi@stretchinstructor.com
Website https://nofearcoding.org
Tags Bee-Bot, Coding, Books, STEM/STEAM, Wisconsin, Computer Science
Age Grades K–5