Beginning in Kindergarten, Ranney School (Tinton Falls, NJ) students use iPads to practice reading and math skills and to do basic Internet searches, such as looking up a definition or concept. These skills, along with typing, are strengthened each year as Lower Schoolers progress into the elementary grades, describes Lower School Technology Teacher Maureen Wood. When they enter fourth and fifth grade, students use Google Drive to create and share documents, spreadsheets and slideshows—all while practicing public speaking and presentation skills. They also use iPads to record their own movies and edit them.
But what’s most unique about Ranney’s technology curriculum for elementary age learners is that students are learning how to code and program using apps such as Scratch, a programming language that allows users to create interactive stories, games and animation. Scratch is used in grades 2-5 as well as part of the afterschool program for students in grades 3-5. “Scratch aligns with Ranney’s science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) initiatives,” says Mrs. Wood. “Students are using critical thinking and logic skills as well as math. For instance, they have to use positive and negative numbers to move items around a screen.”
Coding also teaches young learners basic programming principles, such as loops and wait times, that can be used when they take Middle and Upper School computer science courses and if they participate in the school’s growing robotics program. After students build a robot, they program it to perform certain acts such as moving forward, turning around and picking up a ball.