Wednesdays are “coding days” in Lisa Jenson’s K-3 classroom, where she teaches 13 high-functioning students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her students come from all over the Beaverton school district. Because they already have language there is no need for AAC apps. Instead, Jenson uses tablets and other digital learning tools to help support the development of students’ executive functioning skills and social-emotional growth.
Coding starts with Ozobots, small line-following robots. Students draw lines in different colors – by hand or with the ScratchJr app on tablets – to teach the robot how to move in different directions. If the robot gets stuck or won’t move, the students then have opportunities to work on their problem-solving skills. Jenson also teaches her students about cross-pollination by having students build and code LEGO “bees” that move around the classroom and touch different objects.
Digital tools also help students develop their writing and story-telling skills. For students who can’t answer a question like “What did you do yesterday?” Jenson shows them a video from recess the previous day, using that as a tool to teach them how to develop a narrative. Students can then use ScratchJr’s illustration and animation tools to bring their stories to life.