Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Why and Who of Coding

Recently, Apple representatives visited to present their Everyone Can Code workshop introducing Swift Playgrounds. I was pretty sure the teachers would enjoy themselves and either learn the basics of coding, or expand their horizons with this new, outstanding learning tool.
Having already attended one of these Apple Workshops I was much more interested in what I knew would happen in the first part of the event: a conversation and activities to provoke interest and discussion about two broad topics, the Why and Who of coding. What would this look and sound like in NNDSB?
In our board, there are definitely pockets of teacher expertise, and growing interest in coding, but we have never really had these discussions before in a formal setting.
We have strong coding work going on in at least two high schools, we had teachers from ten schools involved with Learning Connections last year, and several more with Coding Quest this year. And numerous elementary schools participate in First Lego League. Plus individual teachers are moving forward on their own.
But this was a different occasion, a chance for reflection. Each session contained a mix of principals, coordinators, secondary and elementary teachers - another first.
Here are some notes and insights from these remarkable NNDSB educators!

Why Code?
I want to make an app
I am back in a regular classroom, and want to see how to move forward with new ideas and strategies
My son is a technical director at Warner Brothers, and was supported by an enthusiastic teacher in Mattawa; I am aware of the global and Canadian shortage of technology employees
On the topic of equity for women, my son is in computer engineering at Carlton; I recently asked him how many women were in his program, and he replied less than 10 per cent
Coding is an art, clean design, ability to add personal details, also a universal language
How scary is coding? Get a comfort level.
Connections to math
Teachers learn too: at our coding club, kids move past us, it is constant learning for me too

Who codes and why?
Empowers everyone, age, gender, everything, accessible
Many opportunities
Crosses over many jobs, touches every job, a connection
Making connections across the curriculum, to math language
In the US some states now allow a swap of language credit with a coding credit, they are approaching it as a literacy
Advancing our society in general, health, education,
Self esteem, passion
Accomplishment, leading edge, helping others
Taking things that are deep within themselves, meaningful for them, we are making our teaching better
Accessibility: kids don’t have this opportunity until they walk into our buildings
Literal accessibility via iOS AT tools
Coding is a vehicle for all these things, democratization, so everyone can have that opportunity
Solve a problem
Makes life easier
For fun
Empowering, the person who creates it, and those who benefit – the creators and the users
Pride in what they have done and sharing it
Create change
Part of the future, it’s not going away
To be able to participate in the world in a better way
To serve others through those tools: eg. “Be My Eyes,” a crowd source tool where people can volunteer to help someone who is visually impaired

And as a bonus - Math Curriculum Connections
Computational thinking, as follows:
Decomposition – breaking down problem or system into smaller more manageable parts
Pattern recognition – looking for similarities among and within problems
Abstraction - focusing on important information and ignoring irrelevant info
Algorithms - developing step by stop solutions to problems that can be communicated to others.
In Swift Playgrounds, each animation is a “representation” of the code that appears on the left. Which is also a representation… of mathematical thinking.


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