Photo of Kasia Derza

Kasia Derza teaches coding lessons with surprising results

Kasia Derza is a K–8 STEM teacher at Mariano Azuela Elementary School in Chicago Public Schools. One of the school’s goals is to help its students become better problem-solvers. So when Kasia discovered Swift Playgrounds, an app for iPad that makes learning how to code interactive and fun, she saw a unique opportunity to use coding as a way to develop creative and collaborative problem-solving skills in her students.

Kasia had never used Swift Playgrounds before, but using “Learn to Code 1 & 2 Teacher Guide for Swift Playgrounds,” she was able to quickly introduce the class to computer science concepts, and step them through the basics of coding. The Teacher Guide provided examples for exploring how coding can be applied to everyday life.

”The Teacher Guide was invaluable. Swift Playgrounds allows students to run off in many different directions, so having well-crafted lessons helped all of us step through the learning process in a logical way.”

The class took to Swift Playgrounds quickly and became deeply engaged quickly, putting together lines of code and solving puzzles. To encourage collaboration, Kasia had the students form small groups to coach each other and share ideas.

“Because there’s lots of different ways to solve a puzzle, students usually come up with different solutions. When they work together in groups, I can see lightbulbs going off as they play off each other, spinning new ideas into creative solutions. The coolest thing is, by not having one right solution, students of different ability levels can actively participate and contribute.”

One surprising and unexpected benefit she discovered was how working in Swift Playgrounds enhanced relationships between students.

“Swift Playgrounds levels the playing field — everyone pretty much starts out at the same place. So when they work together, they’re talking with peers they don’t normally engage with. They’re getting to know each other better.”

Occasionally, when the class gets stuck, Kasia has a student who’s solved the puzzle use AirPlay on iPad to connect to an Apple TV and present the solution to the class.

“It’s a great way for students who might be struggling in other areas to build self-esteem and become class leaders.”

Start your own class coding by downloading the Learn to Code lessons in the Swift Playgrounds app and Teacher Guide, and by viewing the Swift Playgrounds course on iTunes U.