Do you ever have one of those days where it smacks you in the head, how little you know on a topic? The “hardware talk” today made me realize how I’ve been cruising through my tech life so blissfully ignorant, leaving issues such as processor speed, memory and storage to the tech team at our school to advise me on, and I went with the “whatever you think is best” approach for decisions. (I think I would still take that approach as the knowledge and expertise in that department is immense, and I now have just the minimal amount of knowledge to get myself in trouble.)
Where I think I have not invested enough energy for my own learning is programing, but I do feel proud that I have been an active supporter of a teacher who does know what he is doing in my old middle school. When we revised our course offerings in 2010, we had a “multi-media” course, where Glenn (the teacher) had the foresight to put a substantial unit on Scratch programming into it. I didn’t fully appreciate it, but kids were captivated and engaged in the work. When Glenn took on the development of the robotics course for 7th graders, I started to see the programming connections, the use of blocks of code, and the importance of getting kids to see how to combine chunks of code to execute an action. I am in even more awe of Glenn and the kids for accomplishing what they do after 3 years of the robotics course and now a club being up, running and very active. What has been so interesting to see is the reaction of other teachers to our robotics class, club and the programming unit in the multi-media class. They are mildly amused, but I don’t think, reflecting back on their reactions, they realize how important this skill and understanding for the kids is. Even if they never do anything more advanced than what they experience in middle school, they will have an understanding and appreciation of how code causes action … a whole lot more than I have understood up until recently. Many of the adult reactions took the approach that if we teach kids code, we will not be teaching them the importance of social skills, caring for one another, appreciation of the arts, etc. Thinking seems a tad black and white.
Today’s time, playing with Scratch and MakeyMakey was fabulous. I completely missed the boat when I was using MakeyMakey with my study hall kids this year (I admit – primarily to entertain them), and did not tap into any of the programming side of it. Kids figured out how to complete the circuits quickly, and then just found ready made programs on the MakeyMakey site, rather than me pushing them to use Scratch to create their own. Oh, for a do-over!