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One never knows where something is going to go on Twitter. I recently tweeted a link to a post by Garth Flint titled Teaching programming is not getting easier and had an interesting response on Twitter.
@alfredtwo This is a discussion way beyond Twitter. Programming is on par with brain surgery. Can you teach brain surgery to the masses?— Hal Berenson (@halberenson) March 6, 2014Is programming on a par with brain surgery? Or it is more like one boss I had said “programming is easy and I could teach any money to program.” Hal, who worked for the same boss at one time, pointed out that that company went out of business not long after that was said. So there is that. My old boss is not alone in thinking coding is easy though. A political appointee in the UK caused a stir when she claimed that teachers could learn how to educate students in computer programming “in a day.” Well that is crazy but is the other end, brain surgery, any less crazy? Quite a range there.
I think the truth is somewhere on the continuum between those extremes. A lot of people on the “we need more people learning computer science” movement like to say that everyone can learn to code. But is that true? And even if it is can we make everyone an expert? Probably not anymore than we can teach everyone to write well enough to create the next Great American Novel.
I think we can teach most people some coding. I don’t think we can bring everyone to the level of professional coding though. Not as software development is practiced today. Forty years ago a lot of programmers were basic coders who were taking highly detailed specifications that often came close to pseudo code and translating them to working programs. It was quite a bit different and easier than what we do today.
Some of that is because we have gotten away from that style of development and some of that is because we can create programs today that are much more complicated and involved then we could back then. The tools are better but more complicated. Today we demand a lot more creativity and imagination from software developers than we did from the rooms of low paid rote coders we used to have.
The hard part of coding (as I wrote recently) is not the syntax. The hard part is taking the commands available and figuring out how to build useful applications from them. That is a different way of thinking than many people can adapt to. How many can? I don’t think we know. Could more “get it” if we taught better? Perhaps but then again how many people can learn to do brain surgery? Where does programming fit in that line? And while we can’t teach brain surgery to the masses we do make a lot of kids at least study some biology in high school or college.
Creating useful software is the hard part. We do see young people create very interesting things using block languages like Alice, Scratch and Kodu. Mostly they are creating games and telling stories. While those activities have value I’m not sure they lead to “real” programming as often as we’d all like to believe they do. The block languages we have are domain specific to a large extent. How does one move from a Kodu game to an Accounts Receivable application for example? The path is neither clear nor smooth.
I see there being several levels of programming expertise. Sort of analogous to sports. Everyone can play pickup basketball, some will make the HS team, some HS players make a college team where there are also levels. And then there are those very few who make the NBA. Big jumps with large drop offs at each level.
I like to think I made it to Division 1 as a software developer. My friend Hal, quoted above, jumped from HS to NBA all-star. Most people will never get above pickup games (think playing around with block languages or maybe some Excel macros). Our goal cannot be, and should not be, to make everyone an all-star software developer. But if we have more at the pickup game level the whole pool gets bigger and we are more likely to get more stars as well.
Not everyone has the talent or perhaps the special way of thinking that makes an all-star level software developer. But that is ok. We can at least expose enough students to the field so that the people who have the talent discover that fact and figure out that they can make a difference in the world by using it. Most people need an experience to help them be aware of the possibilities and of the talent they may have.
Michael Jordon was famously cut from his HS basketball team. But he grew in size and ability and later became a star. I think that this would never have happened though if he hadn’t developed a love of the game and had some good coaching first. That is why I feel that if I get a student interested while I have them as a student and help them see the potential it may make a difference later when their talents grow and change.
So programming – easy enough for everyone or on a par with brain surgery?
I had two administrators approach me yesterday and start a conversation.
One told me about how their IT department had closed all social media in their school and about how their fear that if they were to open it. The fear shared was that their would be so many more issues of cyberbullying, inappropriate content shared, amongst other things.
The other told me about how their school district has all social media sites open to their students and have very few issues. In fact, he had shared that since the network was opened, the issues lessened because of their focus on teaching digital citizenship.
The question that came to my mind was, are these districts talking to one another? My other thought was, do the districts that have things opened even try to talk to the ones that are open? Seriously, people have open networks and have very few issues yet so many others with closed networks talk about the fear of what could be if schools decided to open their network.
Does looking only within our own organizations and focusing on the “fear factor” really help our students? I am guessing you can figure out what I think.
If you are interested, here is a simple rubrics to start a conversation on this topic: Is Your School’s DIgital Citizenship Practice a Pass or Fail?
As long as we talk about reaching every child – it is someone else’s problem. Instead what we should each be asking ourselves is how to reach that child right in front of us. Then we reach the child sitting beside her, and then, new one who just enrolled. We must focus on the living breathing children in our eyesight not just looking at the numbers on a page. Reaching every child should be what we do. It is in the educator’s DNA. This is not someone else’s problem it is the problem of everyone who claims to be an educator.
I’ll be attending the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai next week. The organizers asked me to share my thoughts on reaching every child. This is not an easy topic but one each of us must consider in our daily lives as teachers.They Are Everywhere
Wherever you work or are located, this is your problem because there are unreached kids everywhere. They surround us. You can make a child put their body into a seat in a schoolhouse, but they are the only one who can truly bring their entire being to school. It is a conscious internal decision to become educated because education is not something given.
You can’t give a child an education.
Education is always earned. You can give the opportunity to be educated but you can’t force someone to be educated. Becoming well educated is a decision to make the best of the educational opportunity presented. (Yes, there are far too many who have no opportunity to be educated as well.)Educators Who Care, Share Best Practices
Engaging Every Child Matters. So, as we meet and discuss this most important issue, we’ll need to talk about engagement and effective use of technology (my forte) but we’ll also need to discuss the responsibility that each of us have to share the best practices we discover in our classrooms, outside our classroom walls. There are some of us who are experts at helping students make the most of the educational opportunities they have.
Every Child Having Educational Opportunities Matters. Some of you specialize in providing educational opportunities to those who have not had them. You have best practices too that need to be shared. Because lack of educational opportunities often means a complete lack of hope. More opportunities must be given to all students of all races and genders worldwide.Reaching Everyone: Intergenerational Learning
I’m a teacher in a tiny rural private school in South Georgia United States. Many of the farmer’s kids I teach don’t have high speed internet and computers. Yet, as we learn and work together, I’ve taught them that we have an obligation to share that learning with the world.
Right now, my ninth graders are compiling an Encyclopedia of Learning Games using evaluation rubrics developed by Dr. Lee Graham’s graduate students at the University of Alaska Southeast. They are learning web design, programming, and game design principles as they engage in a project to help more teachers find more free engaging, high quality games to teach kids in their classroom. (See http://gamifi-ed.wikispaces.com for our work in progress and join us if you want to.)
This work has run alongside an OOC (Open Online Community) studying gaming in education run by Dr. Verena Roberts and includes a component where students create a serious game in Minecraft with Colin Osterhout. We were discussing just this week that really we’ve created an Intergenerational Online Learning Community that is as powerful as anything that we have experienced. We’re creating Open Education Resources (OER’s) as we study.Sharing Your Story
I’m looking forward to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai next week to hear the stories of others (and share mine briefly.) Some of the leading educational leaders and practitioners in the world are going to be there. If you’re not there, you’re still here reading this and you can share your story online everywhere you share. Your story is important. It matters that we help each other move forward because teaching is a noble profession but a very hard one.
Many of us are passionate about reaching every child. Never forget that the root of passion is:
Latin passiō suffering, from Latin patī to suffer
Having a passion for something requires sacrifice and giving all you have. Are you willing to sacrifice in order to help educate more children? There are no easy answers, my friends.Engaging Every Child
You can be anywhere and help educators everywhere. But you must be willing to share.
As for me, I dream not only of helping my students learn – and I love them dearly. But I also dream of helping other educators develop the same nurturing, empowering relationship I have with my own students.The 3 Essentials We Need to Reach Every Child
- Opportunity. First students must have the opportunity to learn.
- Engagement. Second, we must understand that education isn’t something you give a child, it is something they earn. We must focus on engaging the ones we have. Alarming numbers of children are walking away from education opportunities every year. We must engage those we have to help children become more intrinsically motivated to learn.
- Sharing Best Practices. Likewise, excellent teaching practices cannot be given to teachers — we earn them with every moment we teach and reach out to our PLN. We sacrifice our time and energy to pursue this passion because we must earn the right to be called an excellent teacher. Reaching every child always starts with the one right in front of you. And it continues with sharing with other educators exactly how you did it.
Looking forward to continuing these important conversations with some of you in Dubai where we’ll discuss all three.
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher is an award winning blogger and full time teacher at Westwood Schools in Camilla. She is coauthor of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds and the upcoming book Reinventing Writing and has created more than 15 global projects connecting students around the world. She’s featured in the World is Flat, writes for Edutopia, and hosts a bi-weekly radio Show Every Classroom Matters on the BAM Radio Network.
Very nice Famous Women in Computing Infographic from the Anita Borg Institute.
- A reflection on some powerful learning in the classroom. Some of the highlights, with examples of student work, and some amazing student feedback are described. It was a great way to develop learning skills and address research standards. It also exemplified personalized learning by some high motivated students. - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
- Great use of technology to give students a global understand of topic. Principal's Reflections: simple but very effectivve - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
- An interesting infographc explaining how the search engine Google pulls information from the web. It is reasonable simple and would be a useful resource to use when trying to explain the process to students. - Rhondda Powling
by: Rhondda Powling
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has commissioned a fifth audit of the national broadband network since coming to office in September.
Andrew Farley says his tweet which defamed a teacher and cost him $105,000 was a one-off because he was upset.
This is a child-friendly sound sampler for Apple devices. Record sounds and play them back to make interesting 'music'. Supply your own earplugs! Download the app at https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/keezy/id605855595?mt=8
See it on Scoop.it, via ICTmagic
This site is aimed at girls and explores using media through a range of games and activities, where the player aims to be the best pop or TV star. There is also a section on being a savvy web user.
See it on Scoop.it, via ICTmagic
This week has been hectic for a lot of reasons. Getting my grades and comments in for progress reports has just been part of it. I haven’t had the time or energy to write much at all other than comments for progress reports. But I have been doing a little reading and some thinking. Crystal Furman had a great post earlier this week that was really good. CODING COMPREHENSION is about how some students can understand the syntax and commands but new really comprehend what the code is doing.
What I see a lot of is students who can tell you how to set up a loop or a decision statement but can’t easily make the move to using them to solve problems. They understand the problem but they are not really sure how to apply code to solve it. It’s the age old problem that we are teaching a language and how to use it at the same time. But it is not a natural language so learning the words is not enough.
A lot of people point out block programming languages and how they remove syntax errors from the equation. And there is value to that. Students can create a loop and not get lost with semi colons or errors in case for keywords and that all makes some things easier. But if they don’t realize that a loop is what they need there is still a big problem. I’m starting to think that syntax is not as big a part of the problem of learning how to program as I used to think.
The biggest problem is helping students to think in programming. They need some help seeing how to apply the statements, keywords and other things that make up the mechanics of programing. There was some discussion about teaching coding comprehension on Facebook (and you thought it was just for cute cat pictures) in the AP Computer Science Teachers group.
The discussion there lead to people talking about giving students code snippets and asking them to explain, using only English words, what the code was doing. Some teachers reported students having real problems doing this. I imagine that is the case. One hopes that practice would help here though.
I think it is important not to get too tricky with the code samples we ask students to explain though. We don’t want to model poor coding practices. We don’t want students to think that writing tricky to understand and hard to read code is a good thing. It’s not! What we want them to learn is the right way to do things. Being able to understand tricky or poorly written code is something they will get plenty of practice with reading their own code.
How are others dealing with this issue? Do you have any lecture tricks? Any project suggestions? Are you asking students to explain code they didn’t write? Something else?
She was in a local reserve in South Africa when she took a picture of five rhinos. The photo has haunted her as she realized that four or perhaps all five of these rhinos are now dead, killed senselessly because people mistakenly think their horns will cure hangovers and cancer.
These five rhinos now have names and travel the world.
And yet, Karen has combined her love for these beautiful creatures and her love of children to mobilize and create awareness about this problem in a way that is respectful and appropriate for children and gets their parents talking.
Karen literally has 5 rhinos traveling the world. If you like Flat Stanley, sign up to host a traveling rhino at your school. I’ve had several elementary teachers say this is the best project they’ve done.
Add Karen to your PLN Karen Stadler Blog: http://karenstadler.wordpress.com
Twitter: @ICT_Integrator Project: http://saveourrhinos.wikispaces.com Below is a video Karen made about the project to help you understand why it is so important.
Here is another example of a teacher changing the world one child at a time. She’s running a great project as part of her job as IT Integrator that is helping her students and making our world a better place. But here’s the thing and the reason we should be sharing the project — IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT THE CUTE RHINOS nor is it just about white rhinos. It is about suffering animals who are having their horns taken with the mistaken understanding that the horns can cure hangovers and cure cancer with neither proven by research. These animals are having their horns cut and left to die and they don’t have time to waste. Let’s turn this into a movement to protect and help these creatures.
Please tell everyone you know to join Karen and her traveling Rhino project. Time is running out. Every Classroom Matters is a bi-weekly podcast by Vicki Davis on BAM Radio network. Every classroom matters because every child matters. Listening will help you teach with better results, lead with a positive impact, and live with a greater purpose. Subscribe.
The post Save the Rhino: Join Karen Stadler and The Traveling Rhino Project appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.
Social media and email accounts are being hacked and women stalked as smartphones with global positioning technology create new avenues for domestic violence.
Defamation is only the tip of the iceberg according to lawyers who say social media-related challenges could range from workplace bullying claims to commercial disputes.
Matt McClelland was documenting bushwalks and bushfires in Australia long before Google with his own 360-degree camera rig.
I’ve hit a slump.
Blogging has been slow and an arduous task as of late, and I seemingly have struggled to find inspiration to write. I have committed myself to continuously write in this blog because it helps me to focus not only my growth as an educator, but as a person. Thinking and sharing out loud has truly made me grow in my thinking and has helped to clarify my thoughts. The process of blogging has been extremely helpful.
So why the slump when once it was so easy to write?
Probably one of the reasons is that I am trying to spend more quality time with those that I care about, and putting down the phone, hiding the computer, and just valuing someone else’s presence. Finding balance is key so I have been comfortable with writing less.
I don’t think thats’ it though.
To me, one of the biggest reasons that I have had trouble with writing is that I have focused on creating and sharing more, and consumption less. I attribute this to not only having less time to read the work of other educators, but also I have been spending a lot of my time on the road, preparing and delivering presentations, not having the time to simply sit and get.
Yup, I need more sit and get.
The importance of creation in schools is something that I truly believe in and should be a huge focus, but I also believe that there is still a huge value in the delivery of content and information. Learning from hearing others, reading, viewing, watching, and simply consuming information, often gives us the inspiration to create. Several years ago, John Medina, writer of “Brain Rules”, talked about the idea that creation without consumption would be similar to playing “air guitar”; you would have an idea of the motions, but you wouldn’t necessarily be able to create any meaningful. That makes sense to me.
So I am going to make more of a concerted effort to try and get to other sessions at conferences, spend more times in classrooms when I am home, read more educator blogs, and happily consume some information. WIthout that focus on consumption, the ability to connect, create, and develop my own thoughts will continue to be a struggle.