Top 5 Free Middle School Computer Science Resources
Are you in search of resources to teach coding and programming in your computer applications class? Since Applied Educational Systems works with many computer applications teachers across the US, we are often asked questions like: “Do you have content for middle school computer science?” and “Can Business&ITCenter21 help me teach coding?”
Many computer teachers are struggling to find content in this area, especially those who don’t have coding skills. There is even more stress for teachers in states like Florida, where a proposal was written to require public high schools to offer computer science classes and coding would be classified as a foreign language.
Though we don’t currently have content for coding and programming, our Content Production Manager, Ken Richard, is very passionate about this topic and had a great idea to share a few resources that you can easily implement in your computer science classes. There are many free and inexpensive coding resources out there. All of the ones shared here are free:
1. Hour of Code
The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science organized by Code.org that takes place during Computer Science Education Week every year. However, you can do an Hour of Code any time of year. There are many different tutorials you can choose from, depending on the age of your students.
The Hour of Code website has great information for computer science teachers, with information on how to get started, suggestions for limited access to computers, and even certificates you can print for students who complete the Hour of Code.
2. The Lightbot Game
Lightbot is a puzzle game that can be used to help students understand basic programming practices and control flow concepts. For an overview of Lightbot, check out this PDF: How does Lightbot teach programming?
You could easily use Lightbot to introduce the basics of programming in one class period. They have a free version in coordination with Hour of Code that takes the student through different levels. You can find it here: Hour of Code Lightbot
3. Teach Programming with Scratch
Scratch is a very popular graphical programming system. Students can create their own games, animations, and interactive stories. You can also create accounts, share your programs, and remix other’s programs.
As stated on their website:
“Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively -- essential skills for life in the 21st century.”
Scratch is more advanced that Lightbot because students can actually create, not just solve the canned puzzles. Ken suggests using Lightbot first to get them into the “logical” frame of mind before introducing your students to Scratch.
4. Codecademy (Code Academy)
Codecademy has a nice set of tutorials to teach programming languages. These are coding tutorials and not games like some of the other options. Students will have to enter code with the keyboard, carefully follow instructions, and get it 100% right. This style of teaching is closer to real programming than many of the other resources.
Codecademy has some teaching resources you may find to be helpful. These include teacher training, lesson plans, and an option to track your students’ performance. Learn more here: Codecademy Teaching Resources
5. Kahn Academy Computer Programming
One nice aspect of Khan Academy is that they have a “Meet the Professional” section that students can go through to learn how computer science and programming skills can be used in a career. This kind of information is a great way to round out a middle school computer science class.
Other Options for Your Middle School Computer Science Classes
There are many other great resources for middle school computer science classes out there. Here are some other sites to check out for ideas:
- Code.org - Code.org is the organization behind Hour of Code and there is a lot more your students can learn, even after they complete the Hour of Code.
- Alice.org - Alice is a programming environment that encourages learning through creativity. Learn how one teacher uses Alice in his classroom here: How To Teach Middle School Programming Lessons with Alice.org
- YouTube - YouTube has tons of tutorials for all of the above options. It’s especially useful when the teacher is stuck in a rut.
- Google - A little searching can go a long way. There are many great tools coming out every day that you can use to put a fresh spin on your computer science lessons.