Work It, Flip It, and Reverse It

Start your engines…

Well here we are, our Online 2 cohort has made it to course 5! January rolled around and I was pretty excited to get started too, yes, that’s right, I said “was”. You see, I began to reread the objectives behind course 5 and realized that I was not satisfied with my original idea. If the point of this final course is to do something that reflects what we’ve learned over the past four courses and put it into action, I wanted to make sure that I covered the big ideas that I feel I have not only learned through COETAIL, but now have a strong impact upon the way I plan, reflect, and teach.

Of the many interesting ideas we learned about through COETAIL, here are the ones that I feel quite passionate about:

  • Global Education
  • Visual Literacy
  • Digital Citizenship

That said, piecing all three ideas into a unit that I teach would be a challenge. As I said at the end of course 4, being a technology integrator means that I do my best to help find ways that technology can support and enhance our curriculum. However, I do not run any of these units from start to finish beause I don’t have my own classroom.

I had chosen to focus on a unit that I do teach in a rather stand-alone manner, coding and robotics, and I still intend to use this unit for my course 5 final project. So here’s the big question that I am trying to answer:

How can we use this unit (coding & robotics) to help student not just learn how to code, but to also achieve other curriculum goals?

As you can see, in my role as a technology integrator, I had to reverse things up a little! Start from a unit in technology and integrate into the curriculum.

Get set…

Photo Credit: shanerh via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: shanerh via Compfight cc


We now arrive at the stage where I try to find a way to bring coding, global education, visual literacy and digital citizenship together. Here’s the plan!

1.  I had to find a way to teach coding that would be accessible to any teacher around the world whether they had devices in the classroom or not.

I drew inspiration from activities I had tried with my students already and combined ideas from:

2. I had to find a way to make this a global exchange. So I sent a tweet out:

I got a few replies and so far will be collaborating with @TRuebush at AES in India, @PhoenixSchool in Massachusetts, and @tdallen5 in Illinois!

3. I had to create a plan that would link all of these ideas as well as relate to curriculum areas such as Litearcy and Math.

The Plan


Classes communicate via Twitter on the hashtag #codechallenge. 

Each challenge lasts aproximately 1 week. Within each week classes must:

1. create a challenge related to the topic of the week and tweet a photo of it it to their partner class. A challenge is a maze created out of either sheets of paper laid out on the floor OR a grided maze in the likeness of a Bee Bot mat. For instance, this is an example of a maze, based off of the book ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ Imagine that each square could possibly be a piece of paper laid out on the ground.

Photo 1-29-15, 7 46 15 PM

The arrow on the ‘Start’ square indicates the direction that the ‘robot’ (a student) is facing when he or she begins.

2. The class must solve the challenge by working out the program to get the robot to pass through all the correct squares. Once they have solve it they must take a photo and tweet it back to the class that challenged them.

All classes must create a challenge and recieve one during this period of time.

Week 1: Literacy

During this week the code students will use is modeled after the game Move it, Move it! However, to make things transferrable from week to week, I have removed two actions & changed the vocabulary.

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Partnering teachers will discuss what aspect of Literacy they would like to work on. Possible ideas:

  • Phonics/Word Study: Create a maze where the robot must pass through all the squares with words that contain a particular letter sound or spelling pattern.
  • Reading/Retell: Create a maze with major events from a story that you both share with your respective classes. The robot must pass through the events in order.
  • Grammar: Create a maze where the robot must pass through all the words that are within the chosen grammar point. (i.e. adjectives, past tense)

To solve the challenge that is sent to you, the class must work out the code by lining up students from left to right where 1 student = 1 block of code. For example, if we take the example maze above, here is one possible program to get the robot through all the squares in order to retell the story.

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In this scenario, a photo is taken of the students lined up, and tweeted back to the original class that set the challenge. The class must read the code and check it to make sure that it is correct.

If the original class that created the maze came up with a different program, this should be shared and compared through twitter to understand that there may be more than one way to write the program.

Week 2: Math

This week the code switches to arrows. Pretty much like the way Robot Turtles is played but the arrows are written out rather than laying out arrow cards. The movement remains the same as the previoius week to keep some consistency and reinforce it a bit further.

There will be one added challenge which is the addition of “Black Holes” into the mazes. Robots can choose to avoid them by going around them OR using the ‘jump’ arrow. So now here is what a program can consist of:

Photo 2-1-15, 2 23 15 PM

As before, partnering teachers should discuss what areas of math might be most appropriate for their classes. Some possible ideas:

  • Addition/Subtraction: Create a maze where the goal is to pass through all the numbers that when added or subtracted, equal a given amount (i.e. pass through numbers that add up to 10)
  • Shapes & Colors: Create a maze where the goal is perhaps to pass through all the shapes with a certain attribute (i.e. all the shapes with 4 corners, all the 3D shapes, etc.) or make it more complex by involving more than one attribute (i.e. all 3D shapes that are red).
  • Number patterns: Pass through all numbers within a given pattern (i.e. all odd/even numbers, all the numbers with 3 tens etc.)

So, let’s take addition as an example. Here is a maze with the inclusion of black holes.

Photo 2-1-15, 3 38 47 PM

The challenge is to pass through numbers till they add up to 10. There is more than one solution here so if you are working with older students it is possible to challenge them further to figure out which way is the shortest program. Here are two possible solutions:

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Again, if you would like to extend students, work together to see if there is a shorter solution. Take the purple program for instance, there is a way to shorten this further:

Photo 2-2-15, 5 45 43 AM

Instead of having the robot turn around when on the second “1” just having the robot move backwards elimiates unecessary arrows in the program, thus, shortening it.

On another note, when creating mazes with students, teachers should encourage discussion about strategic placement of objects to ensure that the challenge is actually solvable, and also come up with their own set of solutions.

Week 3 & 4: Create your own coding game!

Over the last two weeks classes will take the time to create their own game drawing on concepts learned over the first two weeks. The rules are:

  • You cannot use arrows or the same actions that were used in the first week. Your class must come up with your own type of “code” (drawing in some possible visual literacy by thinking about symbols).
  • You must create a short video to explain the code you created and how it programs a robot. This video is an instructional video that will be sent to your partner class through a YouTube link in a tweet.
  • The type of challenge maze created during this week is up to the teachers to choose which subject area would work best with what they are learning in class. They can choose another area in Literacy or Math, or perhaps they want to link it to a different curriculum area such as Science or Social Studies.


So there you have it! A global education project that links coding with different curriculum areas while still teaching the concepts and skills behind coding. Digital citizenship will be drawn in through the guided use of Twitter as a class, learning how to compose a tweet and what sort of language is appropriate or not appropriate. Finally, visual literacy will be drawn in, hopefully, during the creation of mazes and especially during the creation of their own coding game as they need to work out symbols to represent the different blocks of code that are easy to use and understand. I’m hoping to get organized enough to start in about a week. Fingers crossed and here we go!

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc



3 thoughts on “Work It, Flip It, and Reverse It

  1. Wow. I am impressed and jealous by how much you have done. I feel so behind. I am looking at Online cohort two for inspiration. Thanks.

  2. Pana,

    Participating in your project this semester has inspired my students. They incorporated coding into word study to make it more interesting. Some groups created maps focused on short and long vowels and others focused on patterns for adding word endings. They had so much fun and were able to work on sorting at the same time. We are looking forward to finishing up the last challenge and sending to you soon. We will be working on it tomorrow.

    Thanks for inspiring my students to try new things.


    • Tami,

      Firstly, thank you for letting me know how well your students responded to the project! That means a lot to me knowing that it actually has made an impact on the kids.

      I am just so grateful to know people like you who are so willing to try out my ideas! Not everyone would take the time, so I appreciate everything you’ve collaborated on with me so far. Looking forward to more awesome collaborations with you in the future!


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