Coding in the classroom: Cape Breton students experience high-tech learning

Coding robots, green screens, 3D printers and other tech tools are increasingly being used to complement traditional teaching methods in Cape Breton classrooms.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Centre for Education has been expanding its lending library of equipment that’s available to schools.

“We’re trying to get away from thinking that technology is just toys,” said Kurt Kublek, co-ordinator of programs for technology innovation.

“The thing with the technology is it really grabs the kids’ attention and they’re having fun doing it, but they’re learning lots, too.”

The breakout boxes encourage teamwork and communication among students. (Submittedm by Kurt Kublek)

Among the new gadgets that have been popular with students are two breakout boxes.

“They’re boxes within boxes,” Kublek told CBC Radio’s Information Morning Cape Breton this week.

“So you start with the bigger box, and there’s a lock on the box, and there’s a lesson that’s set up geared for clues.”

Students work together in teams, against the clock, to find the answers that will unlock the boxes, he said. For instance, they may have to watch a YouTube video to collect the necessary facts in order to solve the clues and open the locks.

“It’s very competitive, engaging, teamwork-building, a lot of communication — so there’s lots of curriculum things that you can check off your list as you’re going through,”

Kurt Kublek, co-ordinator of programs for technology integration for the Cape Breton-Victoria Centre for Education, shows off two of the tech tools being used in local schools: the Microbit (left) and the Dash coding robot. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Teachers can come up with their own content, or they can use provided lesson plans.

One of the projects Kublek is excited about involves the Micro Bit — a small sensor board that students can program to collect data.

As part of their science and space curriculum, students in grades 6 and 9 are using the Micro Bits to track the relative humidity in their classrooms, much like astronauts would do on the space station, he said.

For grades 2 and 3, there’s a cute coding robot called Dash.

“Just like the Micro Bit for older kids, this guy can be programmed as well through coding,” said Kublek.

Students celebrate cracking the code and successfully opening their breakout box. (Submitted by Kurt Kublek)

The kids use block code to make the robot talk, move or throw things.

Kublek admits that figuring out how to incorporate the new technology into the classroom may be overwhelming for some teachers, but he said there are instructors available to offer help.

That said, he’s found that the easiest thing to do is just hand the tech over to the kids.

“I had a teacher just last week, she went through the training with the Micro Bit and she was really worried,” he said.

“Before she had it fully explained, the kids had it coded and running.”

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