This year’s Computer Science Education Week, December 8 – 14, 2014, was exciting. Millions of children and adults around the world tried coding and engaged in conversations about computer programming’s role in schools and society.
With one Hour of Code experience under my belt, I invited two more friends to code with me. I had explored only minimally in preparation for my previous experience, and was able to follow and support a fairly open-ended exploration by 10 year old Z. I was feeling much more brave before this second time, and was interested what it would be like to work with two children at the same time.
I invited two siblings, L and Q, to code with me. They both attend a public neighborhood school near their house in the Denver Metro Area. Their school employs a fairly traditional approach to education, incorporating computers and other technology as learning tools, balanced with common methods of teaching al subject matter. Here’s a little bit more about them as individuals:
L is a ten year boy in fourth grade:
He lists his favorite subjects as P.E. and reading.
He is caring, thoughtful, and has been known to win awards at school for character and citizenship.
He is active and loves football.
He loves the rain and Seattle, aspiring to live there when he grows up.
He has a great sense of style, from mohawks to hipster glasses.
Q is an eight year old girl in second grade:
She lists her favorite subjects as reading, math, and art.
She loves all things creative, and is an avid crafter.
Has a natural and powerful connection with animals. She is a loving caretaker to many furry creatures at her home.
Is naturally social and enjoys getting to know all kinds of different people.
Her last two Halloween costumes were “Cleopatra” and “movie star”…with the big personality to pull them off.
As the 2014 Hour of Code challenge offered by Code.org draws near (Dec. 8-12), I wanted to spend a little time with the history of what has gotten us to the place we are in today. To many educators, the ideas of edtech and coding in schools still seems far off and mysterious. However, the innovators who embrace these ideas are incorporating them into learning experiences and seeing children become inspired and motivated by code.
From 1980 to 2003, technology moved forward, but what moved backward? Examined through the lens of two thinkers: Seymour Papert and Why the Lucky Stiff
Papert and _why are indeed very different types of thinkers. Papert was a scholar, rooted in academia and with time logged collaborating with constructivist learning theorist Jean Piaget. _why was a self-proclaimed “freelance professor”, who created art, code, and everything in between as tools for social provocation and advocacy. I refer to them both in the past tense because while both are still alive, neither are actively engaged in the contemporary public conversation. Their work and legacies are what live on and serve as inspiration.
In 2003, _why wrote an essay titled: The Little Coder’s Predicament, specifically calling to task all the companies who have systematically been adding layers of features, regulation and security to their technology. These anti-piracy measures had resulted in a societal distancing from the understanding of code, and a lack of ability to access actual code.
…I’m thinking a toy language for consoles and desktops alike could be monumental…
…You’ve got to be able to write a single line of code and see a result. We need some instant results to give absolute beginners confidence…
…Tinkering with hardware is learning. Lobotomizing and renovating is meaningful, magical. On behalf of those who prefer to code, I make these wishes. Not to take away jobs from the Phillips screwdriver…. (2003 essay)
In my post on the Logo, I share that Papert advocated for his dream of children being able to program. He called for easy and accessible tools almost 20 years before _why’s plea. In his essay, _why reminisced about the era of being able to program directly from your Commodore 64, or Atari 800 (which was the very same era that Papert was working on Logo with his MIT team). So what happened between Papert’s call for accessibility in 1980 and _why’s call for accessibility in 2003?
Advancement. Piracy. Fear.
Innovation has driven a more user-friendly experience. However, the more user-friendly the experience, the deeper the code becomes buried. Companies are creating better and better tools, and protecting them more and more fiercely. The more protections, the harder the code is to access. Everything in technology has gotten faster, better, closer, more useable, more understandable…except the code. In the 2003 environment in which _why wrote his article, there were many barriers to children getting involved in coding because it was so hard to get to the code and be able to play with it.
Do you view yourself as bad at math? Bad with technology? Incapable of understanding computer code?
Great news! These things are only true if you continue to believe them! If you change your messages to yourself, you will be more than capable of being good at math, good with technology, and capable of understanding computer code (among any number of other possible things you could choose to learn).
These are my original goals identified two months ago when I started this project:
Goal #1: Learn to code
Goal #2: Write a blog about my learning in order to process my thinking, share with other people, and gain insights from readers.
I have learned a great deal since I started working toward these goals almost 2 months ago, but have recently identified an unexpected outcome: I’ve begun to consume and process my technological experiences differently. (Clarification: This outcome was unexpected to me…not necessarily anyone else!) Continue reading →
This is the fatal page from the 2010 Barbie book I Can Be a Computer Engineer. Barbie goes on to give her sister Skipper’s computer a virus, get some boys to help her fix it, and finally take individual credit for the whole shebang (including the robot puppy game that the boys programmed). At no point does Barbie do any coding at all. You can read the original blog post that brought this controversy to light here.
I never really identified with Barbie. Sure I played with her, but what little girl in the 80’s didn’t? However, I wasn’t blonde or skinny. I didn’t care to drive a pink corvette, wish to own a “dream house”, or marry my very own Ken doll. I didn’t want to be Barbie, and didn’t care what kinds of new careers she was trying out. I mostly liked to dress her up, which might have had a slight impact on my love of costuming and fanciness, but that is the extent of her influence.
She was fun, but never any real impact on my life (or so I like to think…) Continue reading →
(from website) It’s never too early to be standards compliant! Show your little ones HTML markup code along with letter forms to get them started on the visual patterns and symbols that make up the essential building blocks of the Web. The first in a three-volume set, originally designed by a NYC Web Designer for his baby, this beautiful book is a fun and colorful introduction to the world of web design for babies.
I’m not too sure how I feel about this!
On the one hand:
I mean…I know that giving any book to a baby is better than giving no book to a baby.
Exposure to print is great (and necessary) for babies’ pre-literacy development.
I also know that exposure to simple, clean designs with high contrast is naturally interesting and engaging for them, while also supporting their ocular development.
I also know babies have an incredible capacity for learning language before the age of 3. The more language exposure babies get results in more foundational neurochemistry being established for learning languages later in life.
I also know that part of the barrier to learning to code is just being exposed to it, and NOT thinking that it looks and sounds alien. (I know this from experience…I can say that now!) Thus, this simple exposure could provide some foundations for code being accepted as a cultural reality in one’s world.
I also think this is clever! I mean…”It’s never too early to develop”…that is fantastic!Continue reading →
I love Halloween! The whole spirit of the day is so refreshing and whimsical. Everyone has fun, and there are few family or religious obligations attached. (…obligations that can make other holidays more stressful!) Plus, if you happen to be a Halloween grinch, all you have to do is make sure your porch light is off, and Viola! You have the perfect excuse to curl up in your basement with a good book or a movie and ignore the world for a night. Halloween is a win-win.
One of my favorite parts about the holiday is that it gives all of us over-worked, over-tired, over-stressed, and entirely-too-serious adults an excuse to just take a breath and to think like children for a day. We can delight in the excitement of the little ghosts and goblins (and Elsa’s and Spidermen) that haunt our streets for just one night every year We all get to have fun, forget our troubles, and pretend we are someone else. We can adopt a sense of wonder and just PLAY! Continue reading →
As I’ve been making my way through tutorials, something was starting to bother me. Tutorials let you practice in nice little environments that provide three fields: One for the tutorial’s instructions, a second for you to write code, and a third to show the results of your programs.
The problem is…This all happens on a webpage, and I couldn’t figure out how that translates to writing actual code and having it do something on my real computer. If I don’t know this, I would bet that others as green as me don’t really know either. Thus, I decided to figure it out (with help of course), and spell it out in this post. Maybe this will be helpful to other novices out there, and I know it will be helpful to me in the future if I need a reminder.
I asked my most trusted advisor, the husband, how to program something for real, and he explained the steps you need to go through. The “Hello, world!” program seems to be an initiation ritual of sorts, so I decided to use my little “programming for real” lesson to make my computer say “Hello, world!”