We educators offer great gifts to our 21st Century students when we demonstrate that we, too, can learn new things. By letting children see us mastering unfamiliar information, figuring out problems, overcoming challenges, and yes, even making mistakes, we help them develop more comfort and confidence when they make errors and feel like they are not making progress. We adults teach all the time, but we probably don’t model learning new material nearly enough, and the kids notice it.
As Ted Sizer wrote in his book, The Children Are Watching, they notice what we do and what we do not do. (A good book, by the way, for teachers and parents to read).
So this year I’m demonstrating how much I have to learn for students in grades one through five who attend my MIT Scratch coding activity. Literally, they are watching me learn how to code Scratch scripts.
I am learning how to code, and right now it’s hard. With all of the talk about teaching children to code — I agree, but sometimes the world of education goes overboard on our newly recognized philosophies — I decided to organize a small before-school activity using MIT’s Scratch coding site. There was only one problem with my program idea. I only knew a little bit about Scratch.
So I started the morning activity during the second week of school and by day two, a few of the 10-15 attendees (children in grades 3-5) were ahead of me. “What’s a variable?” one of them asked. “Do you know how to make a game where the sprite (the little person on the screen who carries out the coding commands) bumps into a ball?” asked another. My answer in both cases was no. Sure I knew how to do many beginning tasks in Scratch, but not what these children wanted to know.
Now those of you readers who are educators and parents know that kids often take care of things like this by figuring out things for themselves — and my students did just that, experimenting and trying things out — but I wondered, “If these questions were coming up on the second day, what would the second week be like?” I needed to master some new Scratch skills and fast. Continue reading →