Coding: The Way of the Future or a Blast from the Past?
As 2015 draws to a close (and Course 4 does as well), I’m drawn to the trends in tech integration moving simultaneously toward and away from the future.
Last year they only had ‘blockly’ options for students to explore coding, and it’s great that they are allowing students a chance to see under the ‘hood’ of the blockly pieces what the actual code looks like.
The BBC explored this trending in ‘coding’ recently in its article Coding The Future:
Programming is changing briskly.Coding in the cloud is one trend likely to carry on, spreading collaborators across continents. So also is the explosion of new languages, like Facebook’s Hack scripting language or Apple’s Swift, alongside classical tongues like C and Java. We’re likely to learn to code younger, and differently. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) child-friendly programming language Scratch has 6.2 million registered users.The Internet of Things, driverless cars, and drones will all yield more programmable platforms – but will coding for your cappuccino maker drastically change programming? And what will the coding workplace be like, when today’s Raspberry rugrats have grown into tomorrow’s programming prodigies?
Currently, I run a Digital Design Club for Grades 3-5 and already I am looking at multiple platforms for students to explore design and coding. Many of them are already familiar with Hopscotch and Scratch, but more so for the interactive games they can play. There still seems to be some gaps between the principles of coding, and the animations/games created through coding apps and platforms.
One way I’ve tried to help students grasp what coding/programming truly means is through ‘unplugged’ coding: using non-tech tools to teach a tech-based concept. Last year I started Hour of Code club for grades 1-3 and started the club with a variation of a lesson from Computer Science Unplugged. The first activity I modified was ‘Image Representation’ or what I called ‘Pixel Coding’. I tuned them in using Pixar animated characters and talking about the word Pixel. Many of them were familiar with the term from Minecraft so were immediately engaged. Then students had the opportunity to practice ‘coding’ an image. Below is a screenshot from the lesson I did with students:
Students were most engaged in this activity because it was a concrete way to understand how each image on a screen is constructed.
Although we are moving towards more globally connected classrooms, I find it interesting that we are reverting to ‘old school’ skills such as the basics of computer programming. Now that so many programs are realistic, there is something exciting about go back to primitive basics and understanding how it all works. It makes me realise how progressive everything is and how important it is to maintain connections to where we (and technology) evolved from.
SO to answer the question: Will education as we know it change because of technology? Education is always and has always been evolving…the same way our world has been and is evolving. As this clever Edudemic post illustrates, education has been evolving since education first existed:
Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started. (Edudemic)
It frightens me that there are movements against technology, in such schools as the London Acorn Schools :
According to school rules, children are not allowed television at all before the age of 12, after that they are allowed documentaries that have previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school – and computers are only to be used as part of the school curriculum for over-14s. (Guardian)
In my opinion, this seems like an extreme response to a reality that is only going to be that much more shocking when children finally do have access to films, TV and the internet. Rather than teaching students strategies for coping with digital spaces and showcasing the positive aspects of a connected classroom, they are turning media and technology into ‘forbidden fruit’. Furthermore, there is an even greater need for young adults to be digitally literate, with strong skills in multi-literacies such as information literacy, tech literacy, and media literacy.
If we want education to prepare students for a technologically rich world, we need to embrace what currently exists in our reality. We need to ensure students have a chance to practice citizenship in digital spaces and also apply time-management strategies in their personal and school lives.