Ways to work around the Digital Divide - code.org access offline?

As I’m sure for all, the pandemic has exposed the digital divide in our schools and communities. With the uncertainty we face for next school year and the possibility of potential distance/online learning continuing next school year, I’m trying to start planning possible changes in instruction for my students.

My issue is the digital divide we have in my school district, as I’m sure is the case in many other places as well. These last few weeks during the pandemic, instead of continuing lessons online, my district had to resort to sending home paper packets every few weeks that the parents had to come to the school and pick up.

The issue is not access to devices–I feel like my school/district is pretty close to being able to provide, if not for all students, at least a device for each household that can be shared among a family of students. Our issue in our area is lack of internet access. Much of the more rural areas only have satellite internet available, which is expensive and unreliable. Access is also available in rural areas with mobile hotspots, but those rely on cellular data and many areas don’t have reliable cellular data either. For example, I can’t look at Facebook, play YouTube videos, or even send or receive messages on my cell phone reliably when I visit my parents home which is in a rural area. Many of my students are in the same situation. Most of our devices that our school would have available to distribute to students and families are Chromebooks, which I know can do some things offline, but I feel like it is kind of limited.

Our state is discussing ways to try to expand access, but it will take time. One short term possibility that has been discussed for next year is to have drive-up wifi hotspots, either at the school or out in the communities. In the case that we have to do distance learning next year, the thought process is that students/families will drive up and park and use the wifi to download all content needed for lessons, go home to work on the lessons, then drive back later to upload their assignments. So many of the resources needed for computer science instruction seem to require a “live” internet connection. I know one of my students lost part of their code in AppLab this year when they didn’t realize that their internet connection cut out, causing AppLab to not save the latest changes to their code.

code.org is awesome, but if my students can’t adequately access the online lessons to experiment in the simulators and learn programming skills in AppLab, what are some possible ways I can try to help my students learn from home? My absolutely dream-world solution would be if there could be offline access to code.org, but I realize that may not be possible.

I was lucky this year in that I was able to continue online learning with my APCSP class, but only after I verified that all students had devices and internet access. But please, everybody hit me up with ideas in case this is an issue next school year as well.

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Some Chromebooks will run Linux. There are many things you can do offline in Linux.

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Hi Mandy,

I appreciate your forward thinking at the end fo this year and definitely feel you on the issue of the digital divide. I definitely don’t have a solution but had a few thoughts that might be helpful if you do end up getting some form of hotspots:

  • Create videos of yourself (and perhaps others in the case of the internet simulator) using the tools through a screencast (loom is convenient tool). Then share the videos in a google drive that students can download to their chromebook and watch later. Perhaps also create a companion worksheet to go with the lesson so that students can actively participate. (A lot of the worksheets that already exist might work + a little tweaking.)
  • AppLab is a sparkly version of JavaScript. Most of the things that ‘work’ in applab (variables, loops, lists, etc.) should work in Javascript as well (though turtle and design mode do make things difficult.) If you pull lessons/content from programming lessons that leverage the console rather than the UI (or shift a few so that they write to console instead of writing to an ID) you can have the students paste the JS directly in to the console on a webpage and it should work whether they’re connected to the internet or not. (Or you could install a javascript IDE as an extension like this one.)

There are also other curricula out there that might be better suited to offline needs. MIT’s app inventor can be downloaded (windows, mac, linux, but not chromebook). It also might be worth looking in to some different textbook options if you have the budget. A lot of people learned to code before the internet and books are a great source of info!

Good luck with your school year. I hope others are able to share some more useful options than what I’ve come up with… if you have things that end up working I’m sure others would like to hear about them here too!

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@jdonwells @madeline_r_burton those sound like great ideas, but to be honest outside my familiarity. It is highly unlikely that our tech department or administration would even allow/condone installing/booting linux OS on a school issued chromebook for various reasons. The javascript IDE is a potential idea, but will be difficult since my students have no coding experience when they come to me, and I have very little computer science background as well (Business education teacher, here… and have only just finished my second year teaching CSP). My students and I are heavily dependent on the block based coding provided through code.org. But I’m gonna check out that IDE more. The part about “have the students paste the JS directly into the console on a webpage,” do you mean into the HTML code?

Don’t feel like I know enough to do it justice if we have to do offline route.

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I was referring to the built-in Linux. You can switch in on in settings. It is in Beta now. It runs linux applications without booting or installing Linux. But Linux is a big commitment and you are on your own.

You can also turn on Android apps in chrome OS. From there you can use the Scratch app for Android. It does work offline and is block based. There does exist a Scratch AP CSP.

“Coding With Chrome” is a block based language that runs offline. It installs as an extension to Chrome. So you don’t need to turn anything extra on. It also claims to have text based languages as well. Load it from the web store and try it. I don’t think there is an AP CSP to go with it.

In terms of off line instruction I recall that the UTeach AP CSP can be downloaded as a single pdf. You could print and mail it or get a couple dozen thumb drives and mail those. UTeach uses Scratch for the first half of the class. They then move to Processing which will not run on a Chromebook.

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Hi @mcarr,

This suggestion isn’t very code.org-compatible, but your students might be able to do block-based programming using Scratch, which appears to be downloadable onto Chromebooks: https://scratch.mit.edu/download

I would test it out first, and if it’s possible to actually work completely offline, then maybe start planning around that if the option is appealing.

I used to have Scratch installed on my classroom Windows PCs and they would come in handy as an alternate lesson plan when the internet was down.

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