"Learning to code sounds intimidating!"... Where do you begin? What efforts align with real world opportunities? How can we make this work within schedules that provide very little flexibility? These, and many more, represent great questions that educators ask everyday.
One thing we have learned by working with teachers is great humility for the act of delivering great education. For us, we believe working with schools and teachers starts by having big ears. No two schools are run the same, and no two teachers teach the exact same way, so telling educators what to do is a recipe for failure. Instead, we work as partners with educators, listening to obstacles and goals, and constructing methods that meet the objectives of each classroom we enter.
"Coding" is both an advanced skill, and a basic social literacy issue. It is a topic for students as young as kindergarten to engage, and it is a topic to fire-the-minds of advanced students getting ready to graduate 12th grade. Seeing under the surface of technology, inspecting how data is used, making math move and come to life in relevant and practical ways, participating as more than just a consumer of life's experiences, engaging the working elements that make the world function as it does and as it can... all of these are increasingly being affected by the languages and tools of computational thinking.
What is "Coding"?
For a kidOYO student, age 9, the below example represents one answer to the question "what is coding?". In this example, student work is displayed within a code editor we use to specifically instruct the Python programming language. This is actual student work, created in response to a challenge to fix broken code and render two accurately bouncing balls in a defined space based on using math to produce a 'natural' physics experience. OYOclass tools allow for inspection and direct running of code in the browser by anyone. [click run below]
What is "Coding" in the Classroom?
"How do we make "coding" accessible to every kid?"
Enter a typical 4th grade classroom working with kidOYO for a moment. Here, existing units of study leave the boundaries of pencil and paper. Students are asked to demonstrate knowledge using various programming tools. In this example, after accessing lessons within their own teacher/student owned class space, students use the Scratch language to code their presentation:
The result is an interactive presentation of the students work that brings the lesson to life. [click green flag below]
As students progress in their lessons, and gain advanced skills, part of their learning curve involves the socialization of those skills. Gone are the days of teachers functioning as the sole repository of knowledge in a classroom. Kids can teach, and in fact, should be offered the opportunity to do so. This 'flipped' model of education helps reinforce student learning, and engages kids in a process of sharing knowledge in highly productive ways.
Why Does This Matter Now?
This is a basic social literacy issue, not only an advanced workforce development outcome. Yes, programmers and engineers change the world with their innovative efforts every day. Some parts of our world see this more than others, in fact some see it regularly while others do not see it at all. This has implications along geographic, socio-economic, gender and racial lines. That there are some kids experiencing a world and accessing an education that others will never personally experience while in their formative years is but one problem to solve however.
The fact of the matter is that direct access to the logic and transparency of the computational elements driving Society, will determine what kind of life Individual people experience in the years ahead. Already, health and life insurance is being influenced by algorithms that consider the kinds of data that people emit every day. Even the friendships and connections people document and allow to be graphed as data objects within social networks are used to influence markets. Without basic literacy over the computational elements in Society, people become objects to be harvested by machines under the direct programmatic control of other people with skills and access to advanced resources. In the future arriving today, you will learn to understand programming, or you will be programmed.
What Immediately Motivates Change?
We are working with school leaders to provide a model of participation that truly scales within any classroom. It requires human leadership. It produces real actionable opportunity in the world today for students and teachers to drive their own participation... to "own your own" education experience. This starts at the end and works backwards, for each of us can now drive the development of our own learning portfolios, and each of us can access the best teachers in the world, including coaches, mentors and community leaders, to showcase our personal interests, habits of the mind, and efforts both inside and outside the classroom.
Top universities are increasingly supporting the intent and desire to see these "digital learning portfolios" as part of the standard admissions process. So working with these leaders, we have already begun deploying examples that our students are using to not only document their own learning and personal projects, but to advocate on their own behalf the outcomes of greatest value they are responsible for, so that outside review becomes possible, and easy.
Included in this idea is something called a "badge", or a micro-credential. These possess literally infinite utility. Each stands up a segment of demonstrable learning or participation as defined by its creator. Some require live event participation, others can be acquired virtually. Standing behind each badge is a documented outcome, the requirements for learning and earning, embedded meta-data to assign additional value and showcase affiliated assets, and the identifiers of the issuing and receiving parties. In the simplest of terms, these badges are useful ways of tracking progressive learning tied to demonstrable and documented outcomes. They motivate students, and they can help teachers manage a complex learning journey by students.