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CS Ed Week! Block-Based Programming?

Jesse Smith Byers
(she/her) Full Stack Web Developer with a background in science teaching, district administration, and curriculum.
・1 min read

Happy CS Ed Week!

I'm a former middle school science teacher career changer, now working in software...but I have to admit that #CSEdWeek played a large part in my transition into software. I started using Code.org tools such as AppLab and Hour of Code activities with my kids each year, then started incorporating other block-based programming tools into the curriculum, such as StarLogo Nova.

So naturally, I was excited to see this article, Block-based Programming in Computer Science Classrooms, which shares research on the experiences of kids who start out with block-based programming.

Did anyone else start out with block-based programming, for yourself, or using it with your kids or students?

What's your take - did it help with the transfer over to learning a programming language?

Any favorite block-based platforms to share?

Discussion (1)

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Jesse Smith Byers Author

I used StarLogo Nova with 7th and 8th graders. Within 2-3 weeks of instruction (1 hour per day), all of my students were building their own disease transmission simulations to model the spread of MRSA in a population. They were able to decide which variables the user should be able to manipulate, and use block code to create sliders / buttons / etc for user interaction and build the logic behind them. They could then run their models to collect and graph data, and develop claims about how the disease is transmitted. Very relevant lessons, one year before the covid pandemic!

The kids absolutely LOVED it, and it gave them such a better understanding of how models can be used to develop understandings and make decisions.

However, I noticed that the kids who had little to no experience with code really excelled using the block-based program, while those who had played around with a programming language previously tended to struggle with the logic using blocks and got really frustrated trying to build their simulations.