Creative Coding

Creative Coding

In a first grade class one day, I asked a few students “Do you like coding?”
They had no idea what I was talking about.

What they did tell me: “I made this bracelet out of rubberbands and beads.” 

The current nationwide conversation around STEM focuses very heavily on coding, programming, and engineering. Which is great, if you are interested in those things.

What about our kids who just aren’t interested in coding? 

Girls in STEM, Girls Who Code, CSforAll – a few of the many movements and hashtags that are trying to get our kids interested in STEM. Why are they so focused on changing our students’ interests, rather than focusing on their current interests?

And for some reason, the STEM movement has started sending this message that’s it’s somehow a bad thing to be a girly-girl. An entire group of us are being left out of the STEM conversation.

That’s a problem.

I started thinking “How can I take these little creators, and use their current interests to get them into computational thinking, coding, STEM, etc?”

I decided to create an activity for these little learners that focuses on patterns and codes.


Using different colored beads, students could “code their name” using the key, or create their own pattern with a few colors and repeat it over and over.

The intro to this activity was quick – we talked about patterns and secret codes for a few minutes, then they were off on their own!


I loved seeing their creativity in creating their own unique patterns. One friend asked if he could have two patterns on the same necklace. He decided to use a black bead to separate the two patterns.


The students who decided to code their names were excited to take the necklaces home and have their parents “decode” them.

I included a little card that I threaded onto their necklaces that explained the activity, and gave them some “unplugged coding” ideas to try at home.

Click here to view and print my Coding Bracelets pages.

I loved this activity, and will be doing it again in other kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Taking the students’ current interests – making jewelry – and bringing in some basic computation thinking skills worked well. They started using “coding” language and will have that in their toolbox when “real” coding and programming is presented to them as they get older.

Give Me a Minute!

Give Me a Minute!

Teachers are busy. And rarely have more than a few minutes of “extra time.”

That’s the barrier I’m attempting to tackle lately – and, as always, I’m using my Design Thinking Coaching model to do it.


How can I provide meaningful ideas and strategies to teachers, without taking up too much of their time?

After analyzing the data from my Needs Assessment sent out in September and January, it became clear that teachers prefer to receive professional development in a way that doesn’t take up too much time. An overwhelming number of respondents – over 75% – expressed interest in receiving PD through instructional videos, tutorial documents, and self-paced courses.

This led me to create a Curriculum Technology Newsletter this fall, filled with PD opportunities, videos, links to online resources, etc. Because I use URL Shortener to create links to the newsletter, videos, and resources, I could see which things were getting “clicks” and which were not. It seemed anytime I described something as “quick” or “short,” people clicked on it!

As a teacher, time is precious. Between planning, grading, conferencing with students, meeting with departments, admin, and parents – and SO much more – it can be difficult to find the time to sit and watch a 10 minute tutorial video during plan time. So, my goal was to create something that honored my teachers’ time.


What I came up with was Give Me A Minute. Each week, I will create a video or graphic of a quick, easy tool or idea that takes teachers no longer than one minute to watch or read. We’re not talking big, multi-step tutorials here. We’re talking taking tools they are likely already using, and showing them a new way to use – a feature they hadn’t noticed, a different way to use it with students, or a way to be more productive.

Give me a minute of your time, and I’ll give you an awesome tool or strategy you can use right away.

That’s my first video – using the Bookmarks Bar in Google Chrome to curate resources for a lesson. It’s nothing amazing or mindblowing – just a new way to use something you’re likely already familiar with.

Hopefully providing these Give Me A Minute resources will give teachers an entry point into other, more advanced forms of professional learning.

I’d love to hear how YOU are tackling the issue of time in your district or school! How do you deliver professional development that fits teachers needs and schedule?