By Enzo Ciardelli
Do teachers push technology creation in their classrooms? In talking to Brian Aspinall, we often share stories about how coding and CS are viewed as just another means of using technology in the classroom. We view it as much more than that. Teachers might point out that they use a few of the following tools to facilitate the use of technology:
- Creating Powerpoints
- Using Google Docs
- Preparing iMovie
- Internet / database research
- Communication through Skype
- Website creation through WordPress
I could obviously extend this list, and no teacher uses all of these tools at once. In discussing coding and Computer Science, it is not my intention to diminish the importance of using technology. In truth, Computer Science and coding are something completely different than using these tools. Consider the definition of Computer Science:
Is the study of computers and algorithmic processes. It includes their principles, their hardware and software design. Computer Science examines technology’s need and impact on society.
Computer Science and Coding are not about the use of technology at all. The use of technology is equivalent to technology consumption. I am advocating for something completely different that is not present in schools today: Technology Creation. Computer Science is built on fulfilling a need in society. Consider a student who has a physical disability such as little or poor vision. Computer Scientists collaborated to problem solve so that they can create technology that would help this student. I want to see this problem solving, collaboration and computational thinking in every school. It is very different than writing a document using Google Docs. In more simplistic terms, it is the difference between EATING a pizza and LEARNING HOW TO MAKE a pizza.
The SAMR model above highlights my point in more detail. If a student is using Excel as a learning tool, they are enhancing their work since technology acts as a direct substitute with functional improvements. Whereas if a student is creating a circuit using Arduino or changing a circuit to come up with something more efficient, they are modifying and redefining technology. With this circuit, they are creating something that was previously unknown to them whether they succeed or not. Obviously people have demonstrated circuits before, but this student is experimenting with new learning for them. Coding and Computer Science belongs at the top of this SAMR model.
We need to build on these skills because there is such a need for this thinking. As code.org points out, 100,000 jobs each year go unfilled due to a lack of graduates with these qualifications. Statistically, these jobs are the highest paying and most stable. I also feel that computational thinking, collaboration and problem solving are transferrable skills. I recall watching a video that states, “We are preparing students for jobs that do NOT exist yet.” While valid, we need to prepare students for jobs that actually DO exist and will continue to exist in CS.
One hour does not a curriculum make. We don’t even go on field trips without some sort of pre-activity, a follow up activity, and a rationale for the principal for the trip, tying the activity to the curriculum.
If there’s no followup and inroads made into making coding and computational thinking part of the curriculum, you might as well just rent a movie and watch it in class.
In closing, I hope that 2016 is the year when Computer Science takes root in all of our schools. My last blog on this subject is my most passionate and direct. I continue to make myself available to assist anyone or any school to make Computer Science an option for students. Let’s work on this initiative together!