All posts by gregeb13

Why Have your Child Learn how to Code?

Why Have your Child Learn how to Code?


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In an increasingly technological world, computer science skills are extremely marketable. In fact, I know of several high school students who learned to code and who are saving for college or to start a business by doing freelance coding work.

Any student who is able to read can start learning many different coding languages.
Scratch is the best 1st language to learn, yes, it has a low threshold and high ceiling. This block oriented language, lowers the initial threshold for learning to encourage new coders and it has the ability to build very powerful projects. Flappy Bird was prototyped in Scratch.
flappy bird






After your child, has learned the concepts; they can move from block to text based coding. All the computing concepts learned in Scratch translate directly.






“in my vision the child programs the computer and in doing so, both an acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some off the deepest ideas from science, mathematics and from the art of intellectual model building”

– Seymour Papert 1980

Learn to Code; Code to Learn

how I teach coding


How I teach STEM Coding


I teach kids how to code. Coding is telling a computer how to do something, step by step.


I had a brand new student, Veda, a bright young 5th grader. Mom offers “She loves minecraft and wants to do mods, but doesn’t know how to begin.” I say great. We can do that, but before we do that let’s learn how to code. I’’m teaching Scratch coding tonight. Have you coded in Scratch before?

I direct her eyes to the projected screen above where a blank Scratch project page is displayed.


I ask her “what is coding? And wait for an answer. I want to know what her sentence structure is like. I want to have an idea of what she knows and how she communicates information.

I continue to wait. She’s hesitant, She doesn’t want to give a wrong answer. Mom looks at her and I say guessing is OK. We’re all here to learn. She offers, “making the computer do stuff”. I say, yes that’s close. And then to drive the point home I grab the nearest object, a USB drive and ask her if she’s up for playing robot. She says yes and  I say do you want to be the robot or the robot controller?

She says robot. Great, I reply. So I’m going to instruct you step by step to pick up the USB drive off the table, ok? It’s like Captain may I, you don’t do anything until I ask you to. She nods in agreement. I say pick up your hand, and she grabs the USB drive with her right hand. I correct her and say, no, I didn’t say to do that yet. Let’s try again.. Raise your right hand. Now hold it 3 inches over the USB drive and now reach down to the USB drive. She then grabs the drive.


I say “ I didn’t ask you to grab the drive yet” . “You jumped the gun.”


I say “let’s do this another way”.” I’ll be the robot and you’ll give me step by step instructions, OK?”


She places the USB drive back on the table and says grab the drive, I ask “with which hand?”

She says “Right”, I say “Ok, but how do I pick it up? “

She’s stymied.

I say remember what I just asked you to do? She says “yes, hold your right hand over the drive about 3 inches. “

I comply.

She says “now drop your hand to the USB drive”, I comply.

Now pick it up. I ask ‘how” she has to stop and think. Just pick it up. I ask how? I ask her to look at her hand when she picks something up. What happens?


She looks at her hand and watches her fingers contract around the object.. I say yes, that’s right we have been picking things up for years, so it’s automatic, we don’t even think about what we’re doing, but we did give our hand those instructions to wrap our fingers around that object and turn our wrist inward.


“Curl your fingers around the object, until you can feel it tight in your palm”


She’s learning how to code.


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Computational Thinking and Coding in the Classroom: Views from a Novice

 Go to the profile of Matthew Oldridge

Computational Thinking and Coding in the Classroom: Views from a Novice

Computers are best at following lists of instructions, while we humans are best at critical and creative thinking, making decisions and judgements, and problem-solving.

I always have and always will adopt a critical stance toward new ideas, trends, and movements in the education world. Ideas must be tested and evaluated on their merit. I am skeptical of absolutes. The world is probably a bit too complex for absolutes, most of the time. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” I am unequivocally against any statement of the construction, “_______ is the new literacy.” Literacy is, and always will be, the “new”’ literacy. This is my own “absolute”. Skills, texts, and our ways of engaging with them change, true, and school systems must catch up. But we have not come far enough into the universal literacy era (and the era of ubiquitous texts) to take literacy for granted. I wrote down my thoughts about reading, writing, coding, and “absolutes” a few years back.

Enough has been written enthusiastically endorsing coding as as 21st century skill for all; on the flip side, enough has been written against coding for all. In Ontario, Brian Aspinall is perhaps our most passionate advocate for teaching kids to code. People like Mark Zuckerberg can strongly advocate for all kids learning to code, and he should. A balanced perspective from Wired is here. A piece by Andrew Robinson about the “coding obsession” is here.

Arguments for and against coding tend to focus on its utility, from a future job perspective, and, increasingly, its power as a way of thinking. This piece is about the latter. It describes a novice’s glimpse into the world of coding with blocks.

My own experiences consist of a lone programming course in the Pascal language in about 1993. I am not sure that I finished my program for my project (a Minesweeper clone, that the teacher gave the perhaps politically incorrect name “Drunkard’s Walk”.) I know I didn’t work hard enough to access the type of thinking I needed to do to excel at the work.

The type of thinking that computer scientists do might seem quite different from anything we do in day to day life (or in school), but Google’s Computational Thinking Course for Educators changed my mind.

As they describe it, computational thinking has four different categories:

1. Decomposition-breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts.

2. Pattern recognition-observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data.

3. Abstraction-identifying the general principles that generate these patterns.

4. Algorithm Design-developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems.

In Lorena Barba’s formulation, computational thinking is the thing that bridges the gap between computer and human endeavours.

Lorena Barba calls it:

“a source of power to do something and figure things out, in a dance between the computer and our thoughts.”

Computers are best at following lists of instructions, while we humans are best at critical and creative thinking, making decisions and judgements, and problem-solving.

This does not mean we want or need our students to be using computers all day to be computational thinkers. A child packing her backpack in the morning for school, purposefully choosing what will go in it, is thinking computationally. Following a recipe (or better yet, writing one), is thinking computationally. Selecting a math strategy to solve a problem in math class is thinking computationally. Reading, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from graphs are examples of thinking computationally. Recognizing patterns, like perhaps a simple ABAB pattern in Kindergarten made from loose parts, that’s computational thinking. Learning how to use the standard multiplication algorithm in math class, or even inventing your own? Computational thinking.

Bringing creative, flexible and logical thinking to classroom tasks, for me is the true argument behind bringing coding to schools.

This little bit of block text in Scratch represents my first attempt at block coding. I simply wanted to “code the answer” to a little question I made up, comparing costs for two amusement parks.

Here is how it went.

I spent a long time thinking about how to bring the project “‘into being”’. What should it look like? It didn’t exist yet. I had no idea, in my mind, what would appear on the screen, and what code blocks would help accomplish that. I am too much of a novice to think about the shortest, most efficient set of code. Just finishing with something that worked would be enough.

I was able to name variables, and to set up inequalities. I kept playing through pieces of the project as I created it, to see if it was working. It was. When I got to the end though, the inequalities set up to compare price weren’t working, at and after the point at which the two equations were equal.

I had to sleep on it. No debugging solution presented itself. In the morning though, I realized: I was trying to use letter “F” and letter “J”, instead of what was need, variable “F”, and variable “J’. Embarrassing rookie mistake.

By the end of this little bit of work, I felt my mind was starting to think in terms of computational logic. With more practice, who knows? (Well, I do know I won’t quit my day job!)

Another session exploring the very basics of Hour of Code and Scratch with grade 9 and 10 teachers went like this. One of the participants mentioned working with the Logo turtle as a kid in the 1980s. So we looked up projects that draw shapes, specifically rectangles.

Drawing Rectangles in Scratch

The discussion that followed was interesting. We looked “under the hood” of various projects, and figured out how they worked. One didn’t reset the pen tool to the middle of the screen, so we fixed that. They all had remarkably different ways of doing similar types of things. It was an exercise in logic and problem-solving.

Just the merest novice glimpse into the world of computational thinking has me interested. I am an advocate for classrooms as open thinking spaces, and computational thinking is a powerful form of thinking. Classrooms should be places of creative, critical, logical, and yes, computational thinking.

“What I’ve learned teaching coding: 3 years and 1900 kids later”

Article here http://”What I’ve learned teaching coding: 3 years and 1900 kids later”



My students’  knowledge and proficiency grew and grew with each passing class. From that first class until today, the kids are so engrossed in coding; that they wouldn’t leave their computers when I announced that class was over. They were hooked on making their coding projects. There was magic in the room.

Join Me @ STEM Symposium Oct 2015 in Anaheim,CA

Please join me at my round table,( limited seating for 15) on 10/29 @ 3:30 pm.

I’ll be discussing the  important role strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education plays in designing a successful future for our students

Specifically, I’ll be focusing on Coding

2015 STEM Symposium

October 29 to October 30, 2015

at thE

Anaheim Convention Center

mail me after you’ve registered above to alert me that you’ll be attending




The 4 C’s of STEM Education

I teach kids to code. Why? Because I did a good bit of soul searching and this is the best way I can give back to my community; as I’ve been a Systems Engineer for the last 26 years.

This is my legacy project.


Why Coding? Because coding is the new literacy. Coding gives our kids the necessary tools to thrive in the 21st century. They have been called the 4 ‘C’s.

  • Critical Thinking,
  • Creativity,
  • Collaboration and
  • Communication.

Coding Fun @ Moffett Elementary

coding games at Moffett
coding games at Moffett


4th and 5th graders at Moffett Elementary had lots of fun learning to Code games with MIT’s Scratch programming Language, Taught by Greg Beutler, BSEE.

Kids learned a variety of coding concepts and used their creativity and zest for learning to make 8 different games, each in an hour.


Learn to code; Code to Learn


2 Summer Game coding classes at Orange Coast college

Write Computer games This Summer @ Orange Coast College


TechsCool is offering an after-school S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program that will introduce youngsters, to creative computing with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Scratch programming tool, using a design-based learning approach.

This S.T.E.M program provides an introduction to creative computing with MIT’s Scratch programming tool, using a design-based learning approach. Creative computing is about tapping into your child’s creativity and allows your child to convert from a consumer of technology to a producer. Students will be able to “read” as well as ‘write in this digital age. Engaging in the creation of computer games prepares youth for more than careers as computer scientists or as programmers. It supports young people’s development as computational thinkers – individuals who can draw on computational concepts, practices, and perspectives in all aspects of their lives, across disciplines and contexts. Seating is limited, enroll early.





(pre-requisite Beginning Scratch class)

Monday-Friday, 2 weeks, 10:00 am – 11:45 am


Fee: $225 each session

STEM Education Workshop

Coding for School Teachers! Come join us!

STEM Coding by Techscool
Coding for School Teachers! Come join us!

2 day workshop convenient to you.
Learn how to integrate STEM into your classroom
One of the many benefits of STEM education is the integration and application of cross curricular content.
This allows students to understand the relationship of the subjects they study.
To be effective a STEM program needs to be fully integrated.




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