Teaching Coding using 'Plugged' and 'Unplugged' Resources

Rainforest Coding offers an effective and interactive way to teach coding that expands beyond the games themselves! Using a combination of online and offline teaching methods, students can understand the mechanics behind the games they play.

Coding is a highly demanded, integral skill in the modern world that helps create apps, games, software, and more! As well as being a practical skill, coding requires a logical way of thinking in testing and solving coding-related problems. This makes it a fundamental and transferable skill to acquire from a young age.

This ‘Computational Thinking’ is the primary object of teaching coding that allows learners to develop and progress their coding skills. By solving algorithmic problems, understanding coding syntax, and being able to produce a desired outcome, students exercise their problem-solving and logical thought within the system of coding. Students find reward in correcting and running code successfully, all while gaining practical experience.

However, exclusively using coding programmes and games is not necessarily the most effective way to teach computational thinking. While these games, or ‘Plugged’ coding methods, give a visual demonstration of coding, they do not always explain the necessity for logical thinking, or provide a practical understanding. 

Furthermore, ‘Plugged’ forms of learning may not always be entirely accessible for students with cognitive differences, or classrooms with limited resources. However, there is an effective way to overcome this that helps get kids engaged…

Teaching coding without computers, also called ‘Unplugged’ coding, fills this learning gap by supplementing ‘Plugged’ methods (using computers). 

These ‘Unplugged’ methods involve practical demonstrations of coding principles by engaging students in activities. These can range from tasking students with writing or drawing out coding blocks, to having students physically act out code by pretending to be a robot – responding to instructions given by a partner. This demonstrates the logical thinking required for coding, beyond merely replicating different actions within coding programmes or games.

One study from 2019 concluded, ‘unplugged coding activities have positive effects on computational thinking skills of students’,  as well as the same positive effect on overall motivation. Where teaching coding can be most effective, then, is the combined use of ‘Unplugged’ and ‘Plugged’ teaching approaches. 

Rainforest Coding blends these styles of learning using interactive lesson plans. The administrator can use the ‘help’ function to download lesson plans that guide students through each module, including spaces to handwrite coding blocks: providing easier intuition away from the computer screen. 

The plans also suggest ‘offline activities’ that encourage learners to act out specific coding principles, ensuring both ‘Plugged’ and ‘Unplugged’ teaching. Additionally, the plans list the cross curricular concepts practised in each lesson, informing administrators of developed skills within each module, while providing an engaging way for learners to acquire them.  

For more information see, ‘The Effect of Unplugged Coding Activities on Computational Thinking Skills of Middle School Students’ Informatics in Education. 18. 403-426.

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