Incorporate coding into ELA class? Heck Yah!


It all started when…

my good friend, Leigh, asked me to teach English - Language Arts at the blended learning charter school where she is the Executive Director.

I love books! And I love teaching students how to love books! But I also want to teach them robotics, coding, technology, geeky-stuff and everything that plugs into the wall socket.

Luckily, I ran into Altino cars last summer in Oahu.  Altino cars were made by some really smart folks in Korea. They took a cool toy car and imbedded an Arduino microprocessing unit. They added all sorts of sensors, LED lights, sounds, and whatnot.  And then we code that awesome little car using C...    It all started to come together for me. Oceanit of Hawaii made the learning about Altino cars free for me. All I needed was a short story or book where a car plays an important part.

Yah. Well. Good luck with that!  I had The Outsiders in my head for some reason, but, no.  No important car.  It was okay, though, because I had some time.  I also wanted to teach kids about virtual reality and for that I only needed Ray Bradbury's The Veldt.  In this short story (written in 1950), Bradbury introduces the entire universe to the first holodeck. (The story first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, if you can believe it.) So, with some Google Cardboard and CoSpaces, that's a great techno-English-experience that fit right in with our reading.  The kids loved the VR!

In the meantime, I asked my daughter to write a short story for me with a character that changes dramatically (like Hero's Journey, but shorter) and an important car.  When she emailed Rescue from Qiamarr to me, both of my requirements were there: a strong connection to the wonderfulness that is Altino cars and a character we could investigate before reading a Hero's Journey story.

As the video shows, kids could not get enough of coding and re-coding and re-trying and trying again. It was everything you would like to see your writing students do:  draft after draft after draft.  Nurturing and harnessing that desire to "make it right" is a life-long journey for an English teacher, but the excitement in that class around the short story and the coding was enough energy to light up a city for a week!  So much fun!  Such great learning!

In addition to teaching the importance of iteration, this project gave me a connection to our Special Ed students. They all excelled at coding, innately understanding the importance of precision.  And once we discovered our mutual passion, we had a connection for life.  Schools all over Hawaii are using Altino cars in elementary grades all the way through high school.

I encourage you to find Altino training somewhere near you. Thank goodness for Oceanit here in Hawaii and Ian Kitajima who loaned me a dozen cars for my students to use.

And if you need to use Rescue from Qiamarr to connect your ELA class to Altino and C coding, let me know. I'm happy to share it with you.