Codeacademy – a free world of computer science lessons

A few weeks ago we looked at code.org and saw how leading, high-profile, computer programming individuals can inspire younger generations to take on the coding challenge inside and outside of the classroom and become pioneers for the future.

This week we focus on Codeacademy, https://www.codecademy.com/ another online tool that has created schemes of work on a range of programming languages such as HTML, CSS, Python and Javascript and is specifically developed to be used in primary and secondary schools.

With Codeacademy, the team has partnered with schools and colleges in various countries to develop an appropriate Computer Science curriculum. Materials are free to download and as well as the schemes of work there are assessment levels and plenary quizzes that link to their online courses.

CodecademyThe work schemes are split into eight units and the units are then further split into individual levels, breaking down the information into manageable pieces and making it easier to digest. https://www.codecademy.com/schools/curriculum/resources

Starting with Web Fundamentals in Unit 1 which comprises of 20 lessons based on HTML and CSS, the remaining Units follow a logical progression right through the coding process, taking in Python, PHP, how to make a website in Unit 6, and then finishing up with a Unit of 30 lessons on the coding language, Ruby.

Unit 1, Web Fundamentals, eases users into the programming course and asks the question: “Why learn HTML?” The answer is a simple one but one that every learner should know: HTML is the skeleton that gives every webpage structure. It’s as basic as that.

In this first Unit, users are given practical exercises or ‘tests’ to complete and are thrown into writing code from the word go. When writing, saving and submitting code the results act like an internet browser, where a browsers job is to transform the code in the test.html into a recognisable webpage. It automatically knows how to lay out the page by following the HTML syntax which, just like the English language, is coding’s own rule for communicating.

The lessons are really quite straightforward, so much so in fact, that novices like myself can even get through them without too much difficulty. They give beginners an idea of what it actually takes to write code and the activities allow you to see the progression on the screen in front of you. For teachers who have no prior experience of coding, Codeacademy is an extremely valuable resource.

As well as all this, the basic terminology is discussed in this first Unit so that a familiarity with terms and coding symbols can be established which will allow for swifter progression through the lessons and exercises.

By the time users have reached Unit 6, How To Make A Website, they should be able to write several lines of code and see it being transformed on the screen. The unit talks about how the basics of website design come from using HTML and CSS, topics already covered in previous units. https://www.codecademy.com/skills/make-a-website  

Alongside the classroom resources, Codeacademy also provides Teacher Training and offers a free teacher training programme to download, ensuring teachers are best placed to deliver the lessons.

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Even though each individual course is lightweight and basic, offering introductory information ranging from 3-13 hours in content, the fundamental coding concepts and techniques are covered and Codeacademy will provide the foundations from which to develop your own skills and those of your students over time. It is very focused on ‘learning by doing’ and each lesson ends with a ‘project’ section. It is by no means a complicated, in-depth resource and as long as teachers and students are aware that Codeacademy is there to provide a starting point in order to cement the basics of programming then they will do well.

Out of all the websites and resources investigated and looked at so far in this series, I feel that Codeacademy, although extremely basic, offers the best stepping stone for people wanting to learn and excel in the world of programming. The website is so easy to navigate, and the fact that it is absolutely free makes the use of it within a classroom environment a complete no-brainer.

Users can sign up to Codeacademy (even I have signed up and hope to start using it in the future) to receive further access to materials and to create their own profile in which to track their progress. With stories from past users who have been inspired by Codeacademy and an ethos that prides itself on: “disrupting education by changing the way things work in the classroom and by bringing the classroom online”, I can see no reason why you shouldn’t incorporate Codeacademy into everyday learning and teaching.

Next week we will discuss how using computer games can be a great way to teach code by looking at Wissp Education, a resource that will help capture pupils’ imaginations by delving into the world of computer games and applications.

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