Sunday, January 24, 2016

Learning to Code

I have been taking a class through Marlboro College called "Creating with Code" as a way to gain some background knowledge in coding and to figure out the best way to proceed with coding in our Learning Lab.  We began by reading the introduction to Seymour Papert's book, Mindstorms.  In Gears of our Childhood, Papert talks about the early influence of exploring automobiles on his life. His hands-on exploration of gears provided him with concrete models to understand abstract concepts. His constructivist approach to working with children and computers leads him to argue for having children put in control of computers and create new worlds.

Next we explored two learning platforms for coding.  At I worked through the accelerated course to work through core computer science and coding concepts. I really enjoyed the simple approach to figuring out the various puzzles with block coding. Each activity began with a brief video explaining the concept and I had plenty of opportunity for trial and error to get coding right.  My kids wondered why I was playing with zombies!

Next I worked through the first four lessons at CS-First using Scratch. Like, each lesson began with a video explanation. We then worked through a series of puzzles or projects focused around specific aspects of coding such as "if-then" statements. At the end of the series of activities, there as a very nice video connecting what I had just practiced to real-world technologies such as directional swiping on a cell phone.  They then asked kids to share their work both virtually and in person. While I liked the final two components of each unit, I did not find the coding activities to be as strong. I learned more coding using the platform and felt like at CS-First I was just following directions and not creating something myself. This could be, however, because I was....rushing.

I've learned a lot about kids and coding by working through these lessons and am most appreciative. I see how coding is constructivist learning and I look forward to next learning how to combine coding with making.

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