Disclosure: Blackbird is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Last week I wrote a lengthy blog post about how Blackbird can be used by anyone to teach coding. That post focused on how you can use Blackbird to teach coding even if you don’t have much or any coding experience and your students are new to coding as well. Today, I’d like to highlight why Blackbird is helpful even if you do have extensive experience teaching coding and or your students have a solid understanding of the basics.

Workshops, Warmups, and Code Review
While Blackbird offers four complete curricula for teaching and learning to code (JavaScript), you don’t have to follow any of those if you don’t want to. In fact, Blackbird has a feature called Workshop where you can create and assign your own projects for students to complete. Additionally, students can use the Workshop to create their own projects from scratch and have you review their code. And if your needs fall somewhere between using a premade curriculum and building your own, Blackbird offers a series of thirty warm-up activities and prompts to give to your students.

The Workshop space in Blackbird can be utilized in a few different ways. First, you can use it to create your own project that you then share with your students so that they can view and modify it. This set of slides and my video at the end of this post detail how you can create a project and share it with your students. Second, you can let your students create their own projects to share with you and or their classmates. They can use a little hand raise icon to indicate that they want you to review and comment on their code. The third way to use the Workshop is to let students explore sample projects provided by Blackbird and then modify those projects. Again, they can ask you to review and comment on their code.

It’s important to note that the Workshop in Blackbird can be accessed at any time. You don’t have to wait until students have completed a curriculum in order for them to use it. You could use it to supplement the Blackbird curriculum that you have chosen to use. For example, let’s say you’re using the Games and Animations curriculum and your students have just completed the lessons about points, lines, and squares. You could extend those lessons by creating a Workshop project in which students have to write a program to draw a cube or two cubes. When they’ve completed the project or they get stuck, they can submit their work for code review by you.

Code Review in Blackbird makes it easy for you to comment on your students’ projects. To do that you simply log into your teacher dashboard and select “Code Review.” You’ll then see a list of students who have submitted work for review. You can then view a student’s work and comment on it. You can also award digital feathers to students who have submitted projects. The feathers are like digital badges for a job well done. You can award feathers for whatever criteria you want to use, but if you’d like some guidance Blackbird provides a simple rubric to follow for awarding feathers (link opens a PDF).

Suggested Personal Projects in Blackbird
Many years ago (almost 20, where did the time go?) I taught a ninth grade language arts class. One of the challenges that I faced then was helping students start creative writing pieces. A colleague lent me a book of story starters to help solve that problem. I had a similar problem in 2019 when I asked students in my Intro to Programming course to design a project from scratch. Blackbird offers a solution to that problem of “I don’t know what to make” when students are asked to create a project from scratch.

Blackbird provides a set of three personal project starters for students. These are projects that students complete in their Workshops in their Blackbird accounts. Like other things made in their Workshops, students submit their work for code review by you. Blackbird includes rubrics for each of the three suggested personal projects.

Announcements, Grades, and Student Summaries
In last week’s post about Blackbird I included a video that demonstrated the basics of creating a class account through Google Classroom. You can also use Clever to create class accounts. A third option is to manually create a classroom in Blackbird. Whichever method you use to create your Blackbird classroom, you have access to the same tools for classroom management.

In your Blackbird classroom you can post announcements and reminders for all students to see. You can create grade reports to see all of your students’ progress in one place. And you can create reports to view an individual student’s progress.

How to Create and Review Workshop Activities
If you’re ready to give Blackbird a try for teaching coding this fall, watch the short video embedded below to see how to create Workshop activities for your students to complete in Blackbird.