How to add coding to remote learning

Consider these options to engage elementary and middle school learners, while building critical thinking and problem-solving skills and fostering peer collaboration
By: | May 29, 2020
(Photograph by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash.)(Photograph by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash.)
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

As a Spanish and STEAM teacher, I enjoy bringing digital tools and technologies into all of my classes. For my eighth-grade “STEAM: What’s Next in Emerging Technology” course I cover digital citizenship, creating games, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and coding.  

Since I started with the Hour of Code in December 2018, I’ve tried to incorporate more coding resources, and I’ve noticed an increased interest in finding strategies and tools for helping students to learn. Depending on the grade level and content area of interest, there are a variety of options for district administrators and educators to consider.


Read: Updated: 308 free K-12 resources during coronavirus pandemic


Engaging younger students

More recently, discussions have focused on how to get students to explore coding in elementary and middle schools. In addition to learning coding skills for the growing number of jobs requiring them, other benefits include helping students to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills; promoting the development of social-emotional learning skills; and fostering peer collaboration.

Depending on the grade level and content area of interest, there are a variety of tool options for district administrators and educators to consider.

Educators can offer coding and STEM activities during remote learning or at any time. Many of the tools available are web-based and offer free coding applications and activities for younger students. Others, which are more complex—perhaps involving robots or other equipment and materials—do have fees. 

When it comes to coding, educators may feel they need to have specialized knowledge or training to get started. But that is not the case. It only takes exploring a few of the options and being open to learning right along with (and from) students. 


Read: Academic Esports: Vegas school blends video games, curriculum


Coding tools for class

Here are five options for educators to consider using now, and when classrooms reopen.

  1. CodaKid is a platform for teaching students (ages 7-14) about coding, programming, and even game and website design. There are online courses available for coding and programming that include Minecraft, Roblox and game design.
  2. Code with Google offers free resources for students with different interests in coding and computer science. Google CS First, for middle school students, offers programming explorations and lessons that include scripts and resources for teachers. 
  3. CodeforLife offers free resources for teaching coding to students of all ages. Students can start with basic coding through Blockly and progress to coding with Python. The site also includes helpful resources for teachers to get started. 
  4. CodeSpark is a platform that uses puzzles, game makers and animation, rather than words, to teach children (ages 5-9) about coding.
  5. Hopscotch is an app that enables students (from age 8 to 14-plus) to learn about coding by creating a game, transforming a drawing into an animation, or exploring the projects that have been shared to the gallery.

For more ideas, follow the #coding hashtag on Twitter or check out the resources at Code.org. With these resources, we create more interactive learning experiences for our students and add some extra fun, too.  


Rachelle Dene Poth (@Rdene915) is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC®.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


Share your stories of teacher creativity

District Administration is sharing stories of creative teaching during this challenging time. Please use this form to nominate an innovative teaching effort for us to share with our readers.


Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.