Let students program the computer not the computer program the students…

 

Warning: This article contains ideas that may have you saying, but I don’t know how to do that, how can I implement this in my classroom. Well that is the beauty of it! You don’t need to master any of this…..read on…..

Seymour Papert in his book Mindstorms, reminds us that the greatest benefit of integrating computers in the classroom is NOT as a tool for standardized assessment, repetitive skill reinforcement or as Papert put it,  “the computer programming the child”. Rather, he argued,  “The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they think themselves”.  This approach cultivates some of the soft skills identified as necessary in today’s workforce including problem solving creativity, and cooperative learning.   Papert advocated that this benefit begins in pre-school. Recently, Indian Creek School located in Crownsville, Maryland published an article “Learning to Code Before They Can Read, The Many Benefits of Teaching Coding to Young Children”, this is a great testament to the success of introducing coding at a young age. Catherine Wilson Gillespie published research article, “Seymour Papert’s Vision for Early Childhood Education? A Descriptive Study of Head Start and Kindergarten Students in Discovery-based, Logo-rich Classrooms” confirms the benefits are more then antidotal.

As you get ready for 2018 and welcoming back your students to the New Year, consider  resources that provide opportunities to let your students “program the computer” rather than the computer program the student.  And if your students come to you stumped, remind students to

“Ask 3 then me” (cooperative learning always a great problem solver) and “ a computer only does what you tell it to do” ( think about thinking).

Blue-Bot  | Early Childhood | Grades K-3

Great for early childhood! Use symbols on the Blue Bot or use a tablet or PC to send a program and run. Software is icon based. Great for distance, direction, estimation, coordinates, numeration, logic, problem solving, and cooperative learning.

Terrapin LOGO | Grades  1-12 (FREE version available)

It is child in charge as they learn through this timeless language originally created in 1967 specifically for children by Cynthia Solomon, Wally Feurzeig, and Seymour Papert. Through simple commands students will discover “ A Computer only does what you tell it to do” while learning distance, direction, estimation, angles, geometric figures, and logic. Although often associated as programming software for the younger grades, LOGO is very rich and can be used all the way through high school to program games, illustrations and more.

Scratch | Grades 3-10

Developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Celebrating its 10th birthday this FREE online software puts the child in charge as they“Imagine, Program, and Share”.  While no account is required to use Scratch, an account is required to save work. (account is free).  A great bonus with Scratch is that is an be used to program Lego WeDo, Makey Makey, Raspberry Pi and other hardware.

Edison | Early Childhood | Grades K-8

Edison is a very versatile little robot that students can start programming right away with its free online software.  Edison provides three languages to program with. Younger students start with EdBlocks, a graphical interface that requires no reading. Place Icons left to right to “create” your sentence and tell Edison what to do.  EdWare is a “hybrid” software that combines both graphic and text based language, the website recommends EdWare for ages 11-13, depending on the student it can be used at younger ages as well. EdPy introduces students to Python and is great for students in MIddle School on forward. Edison comes equipped with a variety of sensors, and is designed to attach with Lego pieces.

1.Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas. New York : Basic Books, 1980. Print.
2. McNamara, Billie R.The Skill Gap: Will the Future Workplace Become an Abyss
Techniques: Connecting Education and Careers (J1), v84 n5 p24-27 May 2009
3. http://www.p21.org/
4. ECRP. Vol 6 No 1. Seymour Papert’s Vision for Early Childhood Education? A Descriptive Study of Head Start and Kindergarten Students in Discovery-Based, Logo-Rich Classrooms, ecrp.uiuc.edu/v6n1/gillespie.html.

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