By 2019 all students from 5th-12th grade in South Korea will be required to learn computer programing. 5th and 6th grade students will learn coding 17 hours a week while students in 7th-9th grade will study coding once a week.
The announcement by the Korean government sent a ripple through the after school institutions. New coding schools have been popping up weekly.
However, the coding curriculum offered in most of these after school programs is a one-size fits all curriculum. With very few qualified or experienced teachers, schools must provide a teacher-proof curriculum where children follow a step-by-step program.
With little wiggle room, students quickly become bored and rarely pursue coding on their own time. This is more often true for girls than boys.
I've been teaching an all girls coding class for the past 18 months and keeping the girls engaged in coding has been my biggest challenge.
While boys thrive on competition, girls need cooperation. None the less, pair coding plays a big role in our classes. In addition, girls will spend more time on the appearance of their programs or games, rather than on the features.
Furthermore, girls respond more favorably to hands on activities rather than coding only projects.
Because I needed a new approach to teaching girls coding, I have spent a lot of time and money on different coding software and hands on products. Finding a product that offers hands-on as well, as screen coding is a challenge.
Because I am teaching girls, the programable robots I often find aren't cute enough to keep the girls engaged. The rare ones that are appealing to the girls, don't offer enough features and are usually aimed at young children.
However, at the end of May this year a good friend of mine recommended a new little robot called Codey Rocky. Codey Rocky is from MakeBlock. Since 2013, MakeBlock has established themselves as a leading innovative Edtech company.
Codey Rocky is their newest and cutest robot which offers a lot more features than most of their competitors, with a cute design that is appealing to both boys and girls.
Codey Rocky, coupled with three different apps as well as the MBlock 5 software offers an interactive experience for young children as well as, elementary and middle school students.
Codey Rocky has over 10 electronic modules, including an LED dot-matrix display (Most popular feature among my girls), volume and light sensor, IR transmitter, and IR color sensor.
These programable sensors give children the freedom to gain a wide range of electronic and software experiences. One of the most exciting features, and the reason why I think every class should have a set of Codey Rockys is the built in Wi-fi module.
With the Wi-Fi module students can connect Codey Rocky to a local network to display online data, For example, my daughter who as asthma, setup Codey Rocky to report the day's air quality.
Using her mobile phone as a hot spot she wears Codey Rocky around her neck when she walks to school and with a push of a button she can know if she has to wear a mask that day.
While Codey Rocky's features are exciting, without the proper software, it would end up on the shelf collecting dust like so many other robots.
Fortunately, the makers of Codey Rocky did their research and designed two distinct coding applications. The iPad application MBlock is specifically designed with young students in mind.
The software guides students through a series of challenges where students learn the basic fundamentals of coding. These challenges are a great introduction to coding, as well as, an introduction to the computer version of the app.
MBlock 5 is designed based on Scratch 3.0. It offers a similar block-based programming language with the same exciting features. In addition, MBlock 5 is compatible with all of MakeBlock's robots as well as many other open source hardware.
My girls class loves Scratch because they can decorate and customize characters and settings for their projects and games. Therefore, when I introduced MBlock 5 for Codey Rocky the girls were easily able to take advantage of many of Codey Rocky's features because of their experience with Scratch.
As much as we love block-based programming languages, I wanted to introduce my girls to a text-based language. For about a year the girls have been learning Java Script.
Jumping from a block-based programming language to a text-based language is very challenging. Not only do the students have to understand the various coding concepts, but they also have to worry about syntax.
The make this transition smooth, the people at MakeBlock added the option for students to switch to Python with the simple click of a button. Students can easily see how their block-based code translates into a text-based coding language in real time.
Keeping Girls Engaged
So what makes Codey Rocky appealing to girls.
When I introduced my daughter to Codey Rocky, she immediately named him. And for the next hour she must have created a hundred different facial expressions for Codey.
After she had exhausted every combination of facial expressions she moved on to simple animations. It wasn't long before Codey had little animals bouncing across his display. Next came the sounds. Codey has about 32 unique sounds, from a cat's meow to an explosion.
My daughter tested each sound with a different facial expression and animation. Then she discovered that she could code her own music with MBlock 5.
In a recent coding camp my students created their own pianos with Makey Makey using Scratch and some bananas. So, my daughter was excited to discover that she could make music for Codey Rocky. Another exciting feature my daughter loved was Codey Rocky's compatibility with Lego.
Codey Rocky has holes on the back and sides which allow students to customize the little robot with their own designs.
We've only had Codey Rocky for about 2 weeks, but already it is the most requested robot in every one of my coding classes.
Codey Rocky is ready to go right out of the box. It fits a wide range of students ages and abilities. With a
Scratch like programming language, students will be able to create simple and advanced coding programs for Codey Rocky. Finally, with 10+ electronic modules, Codey Rocky has endless potential in any classroom.
You can find more information about Codey Rocky at:
And be sure to check out all the MBlock 5 features at:
Something we are exploring for the future is getting into circuit boards. While we love little robots like Cody Rocky, we want the girls to learn more about how robots like Cody Rocky are built. In the past getting custom circuit boards made was quite difficult and expensive. However, from our experience at Maker Faire last year a lot as changed.
Our friends over at PCBgogo make awesome PCB boards and we are hoping to work with them in the near future to help the girls design their own custom PCB boards.