Embracing My Beginners Mindset: Avoiding Overthinking

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Hello. My name is Lauren and I’m an over-thinker…I’ve been learning to program for 29 days.

I commented this week that it seems like the Ruby tutorials I’ve been working through are getting harder and it’s taking me longer to figure out write the code that’s prompted. I have recently realized that half of the time I’m completely overthinking, which just makes me laugh at myself.

For example, I spent 25 minutes trying to solve one particular prompt, trying all angles of writing the code only to result in error message after error message. I stuck with it, miserable yet determined, and eventually realized that I had simply read the prompt wrong.  The prompt was to add some code before the print command, and I was adding the code after. It turned out that I had correctly written the code the first time. Rather than going back and re-reading the instructions, I just spiraled down the rabbit hole…my code getting more and more complex with each try.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I’ve noticed that the fewer angles I examine, the faster I’m able to complete the prompts. This is interesting to me, because it does not feel natural at all!   Continue reading

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Should Everyone Learn to Code?

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Should everyone learn to code? Maybe, maybe not…but that is not exactly what I aim to debate on this blog (although I welcome the debate if it happens!)

I do, however, believe that every child should have a shot at understanding and learning about coding. Because of that, I’ve come to believe that in the not-too-distant future, teachers will need to know something about computer programming. We should know what code is, know how to write some of it, and know about the types of thinking it takes to successfully write code.

Why?

Because it will make us better teachers!  As our world becomes more and more computer-driven, there will be more and more conversations about computer programming.  More and more children will want to explore and learn coding. Should all those children be encouraged to become professional computer programmers?  Not necessarily, but their natural interests and curiosities around coding and computer programming should be encouraged and supported as they figure out whether or not programming is something they’d like to pursue.

Further, How can teachers support the interests and curiosities if they themselves have no idea what coding is or how it can be used?  We can sit children in front of computers with Hour of Code, or a Scratch tutorial, but if we ourselves don’t know what they are doing, how can we help and support them?  Are we really being good teachers?

I think much of the debate around “should everyone learn to code?” largely misses the point.   Continue reading

Inspiration: Learning By Doing

The article, American Schools Are Training Kids for a World That Doesn’t Exist, by David Edwards, provides some incredibly important perspectives for educators to consider: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/on-learning-by-doing/

Describing current educational trends, the article states: “We ‘learn,’ and after this we ‘do.’ We go to school and then we go to work. This approach does not map very well to personal and professional success in America today. Learning and doing have become inseparable in the face of conditions that invite us to discover.”

The authors go on to describe some important movements bubbling up through the cracks of our institutions: “Discovery has always provoked interest, but how one discovers may today interest us even more. Educators, artists, designers, museum curators, scientists, engineers, entertainment designers and others are creatively responding to this new reality, and, together, they are redefining what it means to learn in America.”

Part of the reason I’m learning to code and writing this blog is because I believe that In order for students to adopt and maintain attitudes of discovery, teachers need to be discoverers too.  We  must play, design, experiment, and find joy in the process in order to be effective in our jobs and nurture the natural creative genius in our students.  I’m not yet sure if I believe that every teacher will need to learn to code, but I do believe that every teacher needs to find and nurture their own creative passions and seek new creative challenges to tackle.

What will it take for our schools to provide professional development that fosters teacher discovery?

What will it take for teacher education programs to nurture discovery mindsets in new generations of teachers?

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My First Meetup

Ok, so last night I put on my big girl pants and went to a Meetup at the Denver Library called “Learn to Code”. The description was this: Open house/study group focused on learning code at varying skill levels. All are welcome to come with or without experience, a computer, or an RSVP.  I thought this sounded perfect!  I have no experience, I do have a computer, and I did RSVP.  I met all the criteria!

bird_girlOver the past several years, I have become a pretty solid professional networker, so I’m comfortable with the thought of something like this…but man!  It was still hard to walk through that door!  Being a good networker in education circles does not really prepare you to cast yourself into a room with a bunch of people who you know nothing about, and who you are pretty sure have no interest in discussing education (and they shouldn’t! They want to learn how to code!)  It was intimidating and daunting, and perfect, because part of the reason I wanted to do this was to meet people who are different from me.  I want to meet people with completely different skill sets and learn from and with them. Sure, it’s easy to walk into a room of teachers and start a conversation about the importance of nature-based education, or why we don’t get the respect we deserve.  Walking into a room with a whole different purpose was scary, but exciting!

What did I learn?  A LOT!

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Why Coding? Why Now?

Every person and every teacher must answer these questions for him or herself. To add to my full disclosure, I’ll just tell you a little bit about why I am a teacher learning to code. Maybe you will relate, maybe not. There are basically 4 reasons:

Reason #1: My husband (I know…it sounds like a silly reason, but just read on!)

That brain is always going...what does it DO?
That brain is always going…what does it DO?

My husband is a programmer, and I can honestly say that I never even knew what programming WAS until I met him 4 years ago. I still don’t, but I know a little bit more more now than I did when we met.  Sometimes I watch him work and it looks like madness to me…I watch him scroll back and forth between 3 or 4 different screens on his laptop, each with several open windows containing colors, letters, numbers, symbols, flashing, etc…I don’t understand any of it. It looks nuts! I am way less intimidated by the notion of learning to speak Korean!

Since I have this close relationship with a programmer, I’ve been able to learn a great deal about him in all areas of life, and our brains definitely work differently.  He’s a logical thinker. He likes neat, clean solutions to things and yes/no answers. I can’t stand being asked a yes/no question…I’m an educator whose primary goal is to provoke people to think for themselves.  I think that “wrong answers” exist in some situations, but I don’t really believe in definitive “right answers”… I believe in opinions and experiments and actions and consequences, and LEARNING.  I believe learning is messy…and programming LOOKS messy…but I suspect it’s a lot more neat and clean than it looks. (…but maybe not!)

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