On Monday, faculty at Beaver Country Day School presented an innovative approach to teaching technology at SXSWedu 2015 in Austin, TX. This year’s discussion was “The Coded Curriculum: A Year In Review”. It’s the independent school’s second year presenting at SXSWedu.
In September of 2013, the school’s faculty began integrating computer programming into the students’ core curriculum. However, rather than requiring an additional separate course for students to complete, teachers have taken the initiative to integrate coding into various activities for certain courses. This is a more organic method of introducing the technology to students.
As part of the initiative, coding can now be found in courses like English and math. With a language like Python, students are able to use an additional means of solving equations in Beaver Country’s Calculus courses. In English, students have used coding to digitally act out scenes from “Macbeth.” Even art instructors have encouraged students to draw with a program called Pencil Code. Many of these programs are free, which makes them a cost-effective way for faculty to enrich the students’ education.
Since Beaver Country is the first school in the US to implement coding into the curriculum to such a degree, the faculty serving on the panel at SXSWedu had the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of the strategy, what they have learned in the past year, and analyze strategies for the future. The faculty in attendance was Peter Hutton, Head of School; Robert MacDonald, Math Department Chair, and Yolanda Wilcox-Gonzalez, Technology Integration Specialist and Middle School History Teacher.
One of the main points discussed during the talk was the way coding encourages the development of a student’s critical thinking skills and enhances teamwork and creativity. As part of their academic philosophy, Beaver Country wants their students to “[think] from multiple perspectives and [solve] complex challenges,” which the school considers “the cornerstones of [their] education.”
Unconventional methods are not new to Beaver Country Day School. Collaborations with design firms like IDEO and studio-based educational programs like NuVu Studio have become important academic resources for their students. As technology is a priority in the school’s learning experience, the Coded Curriculum serves to keep Beaver Country’s education up-to-date with the demands of a fast-changing world.
—By Adriana Hammond