Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Students Learn the Basics of Computer Programming

“Why does he keep saying that?,” was what one of the boys whispered to his friend in the elementary library.  He had, what I would call, beige hair, and an inquisitive look on his face.  His partner had an amazing ability to use the computer mouse. To him, the computer mouse was a part of his hand.  I think the first boy was talking about the fact that Wendy Sprague and I kept saying over and over “if you work hard you can actually get smarter.”  After a brief introduction and an explanation of their first learning adventure, all four students used computer programming to get the solution.  Some students were able to complete the learning adventure faster than others, even though learning is not a race. We all learn at different rates of speed.  Whatever you do, please don’t tell them they were learning.

Wendy is a librarian at the Cuba Rushford school district.  She has embraced computer programming and robotics in her schools.  The learning of new things does not come easy to everyone and I think it is safe to say that might be true of Wendy as well.  Wendy is a great example of a life-long learner and a follower of the research headed up by Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University.  Dr. Dweck has done scientific research to prove that if people work hard and believe that hard work pays off they can make themselves smarter.  If you work hard, are focused on your task and repeat the task to solidify your learning the actual weight of one’s brain gets heavier.  This weight change occurs due to the increased number of neurons, or thinking connections, created in your brain by learning.  It is important for students to get a good night sleep because the neurons are solidified during sleep.  The book called Mindset by Carol Dweck discusses her brain research and is a great resource for anyone. It may even change the way you think about intelligence.

It is only natural for, what some might believe as, unconventional learning to occur in the library. With the easy access to information online, no longer can the library just be a place where information is archived and stored.  Libraries are more.  They are where information is gathered to test theories, find new facts, invent products to help people and publish things of all kind, not just books or things involving text.

Fifth grade students at Cuba Rushford used the computer programming language called Scratch, which can be found at Scratch.MIT.edu.  This open-sources coding language consists of “drag and drop” blocks so no “hard coding” or syntax is used.  Scratch is free and can be used on any computer. Instead of students making sure they capitalized using “camelCode” or that they used a semicolon instead of a colon, they could put there mind work totally on the logic. Lots of logic goes into computer programming.
Students seemed to enjoy computer programming and I can’t wait till I can go back to Cuba Rushford to do some more teaching and learning with Wendy and her students.  Programming is extremely fun, engaging and it teaches a lot of important skills that can help in any classroom.  I wonder what the kids have been inventing since we last met?


Donald Watkins said...

Good article. I'm reading more about the growth mindset. I keep pushing myself to learn although after a time my insatiable curiosity functions like a vacuum and pulls me forward into more and more. Interesting about how the brain gets heavier with more learning.

Rick Weinberg said...

@don_watkins Thanks for leaving a comment. I know you and I know that you have a growth mindset. What's great about Carol Dweck's book is that it reinforces and gives a phrase for what we are. I knew you would like that book. The interesting thing is I'm forming a new idea. The new idea has to do with social learning. I feel all learning is social. Here is the question. Does there come a time in the general development of a child that he or she become concerned with how they are perceived by his or her peers that the fear of failure inhibits learning? I think this is what happens to adults. I think it happens to adults because I observe teachers and student who are totally unfamiliar with coding approach the same prompts (see previous blog post), challenges and learning adventures entirely differently.