Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” – Steve Jobs
I am a huge advocate of coding! I think there are so many different skills that students learn when they are coding. While there are many curriculum connections that can be made from coding, I think the most important skill that they can learn is the ability to problem solve.
For the purpose of this blog, I have broken it down into three parts, my background in coding, using coding as a teacher, and finally, my experience coding this week.
Part 1: My Background
I was lucky enough to be able to take both Computer Science 20 and 30 in high school. So theoretically I should have a solid understanding of how to write code and how computers work. I did quite well in both of these classes, and going into Computer Science in university was my backup plan if this whole Education degree didn’t work out. Luckily for everyone, things seem to be working well in education. These were two classes that I enjoyed very much, and they were two classes were I gained a ton of problem-solving skills.
I had one of the favourite teachers in high school teach me both of these classes. He was also probably one of the best teachers that I had in high school. He pushed me and my classmates to do our best work each and every day. He would not let us settle for anything less than our best work. He also had different expectations for each one of us, in other words, he was differentiating before I even knew what that meant.
There would be some days where I would put zero code into the computer. Instead, I would spend the entire class problem solving what to do next. Sometimes this would be by myself, other times it would be with some classmates. While I would always write my own code, often times the ideas would have been shared with and discussed with many other classmates. Somedays I would leave that class incredibly frustrated, having not accomplished much. Other days, I would leave feeling very proud of myself because I made the computer do something cool. I would often times wake up in the middle of the night having thought of a solution. I would quickly scribble it down and fall back asleep. It was a very powerful learning experience.
Part 2: As a Teacher
I was lucky enough to be able to bring coding into my classroom during my internship. It was something that I was somewhat sceptical about, as I wasn’t sure how the students would enjoy it. During education week the school I was at did a big Maker Movement, which culminated in a school-wide Maker Day on Friday. My class did our first hour of code on Monday, and I encouraged the students to do a game or program called Lighbot. This is a game where the user has to move the bot around a board and light up squares. It sounds like more fun than that explanation, and I will explain more about it in the next section.
The students absolutely loved it! That hour was the most engaged I had ever seen them while working on the computers. I did not have to worry about them doing things they weren’t supposed to. They began to challenge one another to see who could get it done quickly or with fewer moves. They also started to work together and help one another with the different levels. I really tied to encourage them to provide them with support and encouragement rather than just giving them the answers. They worked so well that I decided to give them more time the next day to finish their games. Many of them actually went home and tried to solve the game. The very last level is extremely difficult, and it took a great deal of teamwork between the student, and myself to finally solve it.
It was really good to see certain students really persevere and work through some of the tougher tasks. There was a noticeable increase in the level of self-confidence that was shown by the students during this time. I will definitely be bringing coding and computer science into my future classroom. The benefits of doing so are so strong.
Part 2: My Experience
I spent some time working on Lighbot earlier this week. While I was able to film a few segments, the downside of using a free app is that you are limited in what you can do. Screencastify cut me out after ten minutes of my video. I was able to record it in two segments, but unfortunately, you aren’t able to see everything.
So for your enjoyment, check out my two-part video series on my experiences with Lighbot.
As I had mentioned earlier, it had been a while since I last wrote code. While I wouldn’t say it is quite like getting back on a bicycle, some of it did come back to me quite quickly Not necessarily the actual coding, but more so the problem solving and the logic and reasoning behind what I was doing. I had to reprogram my brain how to think about code.
So as you can see from the videos I was, for the most part, able to get through the different levels with ease. The next set of levels that you, unfortunately, can’t see get exponentially more difficult. It took me a lot longer to move through them and required much higher level thinking. I was actually using good old fashioned pen and paper to help me work through and solve the problems.
I would encourage everyone to learn to code. It is such an important skill for people to have. As the first Youtube video says, it really is the future. Problem-solving skills are so important for everyone, especially students, and learning to code is a great way to build this skill. So in closing…
“Push it to the Limit!” and learn to code…