Challenge: Code a Solution! - Challenge Based Learning

Challenge: Code a Solution!

Code a Solution

November 30, 2017 | By

Code a Solution

We are surrounded by Challenges: large, small, short and long-term. Challenge Based Learning provides an efficient framework to identify and effectively solve challenges while learning curriculum content and developing essential life skills.

We also have unprecedented access to incredible tools to harness technology and develop solutions to our Challenges. Resources like Apple’s Swift coding language and accompanying educational resources make software development accessible to all. Now anyone can look around their world, identify a challenge, learn deeply about it, and develop a solution.

Challenge Based Learning provides a purpose for coding and integrates it with curriculum content.

Take Action. Make a Difference.

Make a difference in your school and community!

Take a hard look at your school and local community, identify a Big idea (pollution, water quality, voting, communication, transportation, etc.) Use the CBL process to frame a challenge, learn about it, and develop an app that solves the problem.

Share your process, progress and apps with the world using the hashtag #CBLWorld the CBL Facebook page and we will feature your stories on the CBL website.

2017 Schedule

For computer science education week we are going to walk through the process of using Challenge Based Learning to use computational thinking and coding to solve a challenge. We invite you to join in and think about how you can identify a concern in your community and Code a Solution!

  1. 12/4  Engage –  Big idea to Challenge – we will walk through the process of identifying a big idea, essential questioning and developing a Challenge.
  2. 12/5 through 12/7 Investigate  – Guiding Questions, Activities and Research summary. We will share our investigation and demonstrate how this can address content and skill acquisition.
  3. 12/8 – Act – We will reveal our solution concept and wireframes and discuss the next steps.

We encourage you to work with us to think through how learners can make a difference in their communities.


The Challenge

Big Idea: Community
Essential Question: How can we use coding to improve our community and learn subject area content?
Challenge: Develop an App that helps your community!

Sample Guiding Questions:

  1. What are the issues in your community?
  2. What do we know about these issues?
  3. How are these issues related to subject content we are learning in school?
  4. Who is currently trying to address these issues?
  5. What process can we use to manage the process?
  6. How can technology help?
  7. Where can we learn how to code?
  8. etc.

Sample Guiding Activities and Resources:

  1. Interview community members and officials. Explore your community.
  2. Explore the CBL User Guide.
  3. Review subject area standards and align them with the guiding questions.
  4. Explore the resources available for learning Swift, for example – Teaching Code from Apple Education.
  5. etc.

For Example

Big Idea: Community
Essential Question: How can we make our local community more livable?
Challenge: Reduce Urban Blight!*

*Urban Blight – Urban decay consisting of the deterioration of part of a town or city due to aging, neglect, and lack of financial support for maintenance. (


As students walked around their neighborhood they noticed that there was an abundance of graffiti, abandoned cars, litter, stray animals, broken windows, etc. As part of their government class, they started to discuss why this occurred and how it could be changed. In discussions, the initial idea was to create a marketing campaign including public service announcements to stop the behavior. But instead of immediately developing solutions they decided to step back and use Challenge Based Learning to learn more about the problems.

Process and Findings

After asking lots of guiding questions, answering them through extensive research, aligning the learning with social science and other content standards (so they could still pass the test), the students made some significant discoveries:

  1. There are historical and political reasons why certain neighborhoods have these issues.
  2. Behavior is hard to change.
  3. City goverments are overburdened and under staffed.
  4. The system for reporting these issues is clumsy and ineffective resulting in people just ignoring the problems.
  5. Quick reporting, removal, and repairs result in decreased incidents.


After analyzing the research, the learners realized that this was a behavioral, political and an organizational problem, but they had the best chance of making a difference with a structural solution. So they developed the idea for an app where users take a picture of the problem, the app tags it with a location and sends it directly to the appropriate agency. The app resulted in more rapid response times and the elimination of the issues. These apps are now found in cities all over the world.

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