Matt Ruzicka wonders what could have happened if his school was visited by someone who shared how programming has less to do with something he could learn in college, and more to do with what he was actually doing in class in his post “School, Math, and Code”. (via “Life and Code”)
More than a few of us from CIM are active in our communities, including my former manager Aaron Held, who received this note from a thankful student who needs more support from others.
Knowledge of programming, not the use of specific kinds of software (word processors for example), is a necessary part of literacy today.
John D. Cook, in a short, poetic post, describes how experts end up where they started, as beginners, and why, in his blog post “Coming full circle”. A few folks in his comments thread make the connection with Zen’s concept of “Shoshin”, the Beginner’s Mind, and it does, but I hear echoes of another journey just as strongly.
Actually, this post will feature a few reads and resources for you that are part of a theme – the need to change K-12 education to face the realities of today and tomorrow, instead of preparing them for a world that has already turned. To do so will require children to gain a working understanding of the use of, and creation of, software. This is as important today as reading, writing and mathematics and it helps provide invaluable tools to build on, and strengthen, those foundational parts of children’s education.
Google Edu serves a terrific resource for educators and students that brings together many of these concepts – “Exploring Computational Thinking”. The lesson plan includes Python exercises that help illustrate computational thinking while strengthening math skills.
Wondering why we’re living in an age of ever increasing decreased expectations? You are not alone. Author Neal Stephenson wrote a thought provoking must read for World Policy Institute titled, “Innovation Starvation”:
The imperative to develop new technologies and implement them on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It’s the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments. Too bad we’ve forgotten how to do it.
Paul Lockhart wrote an accessible read on what is wrong with math education and the popular perception of math that is reinforced in culture that has been shared on the Web in quite a few corners. It deserves a wider read: “A Mathematician’s Lament”:
The art of proof has been replaced by a rigid step-by step pattern of uninspired formal deductions. The textbook presents a set of definitions, theorems, and proofs, the teacher copies them onto the blackboard, and the students copy them into their notebooks. They are then asked to mimic them in the exercises. Those that catch on to the pattern quickly are the “good” students.
The result is that the student becomes a passive participant in the creative act. Students are making statements to fit a preexisting proof-pattern, not because they mean them. They are being trained to ape arguments, not to intend them. So not only do they have no idea what their teacher is saying, they have no idea what they themselves are saying.
Even the traditional way in which definitions are presented is a lie. In an effort to create an illusion of “clarity” before embarking on the typical cascade of propositions and theorems, a set of definitions are provided so that statements and their proofs can be made as succinct as possible. On the surface this seems fairly innocuous; why not make some abbreviations so that things can be said more economically? The problem is that definitions matter. They come from aesthetic decisions about what distinctions you as an artist consider important. And they are problem-generated. To make a definition is to highlight and call attention to a feature or structural property. Historically this comes out of working on a problem, not as a prelude to it.
The point is you don’t start with definitions, you start with problems. Nobody ever had an idea of a number being “irrational” until Pythagoras attempted to measure the diagonal of a square and discovered that it could not be represented as a fraction. Definitions make sense when a point is reached in your argument which makes the distinction necessary. To make definitions without motivation is more likely to cause confusion.
Programming, along with critical thinking skills, should be taught in K-12 along side reading, writing and arithmetic. Douglas Rushkoff has been making the case, not for jobs, or for just economic concerns, but for a healthy society.
Help them play (Slate): “Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It’s this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place.”
Do you encourage play time with your children along these lines or have them involved in a preschool that operates with a similar program? I admit I have not – Emma’s play is either directed – baking, arts and crafts, or games, or non-structured free time. So can’t attest to how well the work. What these programs are attempting to improve or instill is important.
And BTW, I gotta agree with the author of “What should a 4 year old know” for what is truly important. Compassion towards others, and self control, are both in that mix.