Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Coding…what is it? Why explore it?
Let’s explore what coding represents first. Coding represents a new language, a new world an opportunity to learn in the 21st century. Coding itself is more of a vision that allow us all to think and consider things drastically different within the world that we live in.
Now more than ever, we are running into some real-world issues, struggles and dilemma’s that are becoming exceedingly difficult to problem solve and navigate with the tools and understanding that we currently work with. Coding allows us to think within a growth mindset framework to tackle anything we will run into throughout our lives.
Sociocultural or historical context
The Sociocultural or historical context of the coding is relatively new.
Seymour Papert was one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education. He was one of the original innovators and visionaries for the game-based learning movement we are now seeing infused often within classrooms today.
Papert took the mid-’80’s by storm in connection with the academic work on LOGO, (the children’s computer programming language) and the education movement.
Papert coined the term, constructivism to advance a new theory of learning, claiming that children learn best when they:
Use tech-empowered learning tools and computational environments,
Take active roles of designers and builders; and
Do it in a social setting, with helpful mentors and coaches, or over networks.
"The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge" - Seymour Papert
His theory stems from the work of education innovators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Paulo Freire; but most of all, Jean Piaget. These iconic thinkers helped fuse a love and desire to explore life-long learning for me in teacher’s college. Brian Aspinall and Lisa Ann Floyd inspired me to dive deeper into my own learning in the field of computational thinking.
What is coding?
When Mario and Alberto asked me to consider writing a blog on coding, I was extremely excited! Not just because they are the eTwinz, nor the fact that I get to showcase a passion of mine. It was because I am currently on a mission to arm my students and the future workforce with a new understanding and appreciation for life-long learning. Coding represents a school of thought so much deeper, it’s all about computational thinking in action!
Coding, what is it? Well it is simple, it’s a means to show computational thinking visually. It is the voice of computational thinking in action currently.
Computational thinking itself is characterized by four things; decomposition, pattern recognition, algorithmic design and abstractions. By decomposing problems, identifying the variables involved using data representation, and creating algorithms a generic solution result. This solution is a generalization or abstraction that can be used to solve a multitude of variations of the initial problem.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them" - Albert Einstein
You can see a brief summary of these within this canva; Introduction to Coding
One of the iconic leaders within the computational thinking world is Mr. Brian Aspinall. He shares that many of the key focuses within computational thinking is the 6 C’s of learning; critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, citizenship and character education which are all embedded within the 21st Century Competencies. When we as people rethink, reframe our problem-solving abilities within the context of computational thinking we begin to develop these 21st century competencies within a growth mindset to tackle life itself in all forms and fashions. Brian’s work and passion fuels the fire for life-long learning through computational thinking.
Computational thinking takes us all into depth in learning. This depth in learning involves the interplay of the cognitive (thinking / reasoning), intrapersonal (behavior / emotions) and interpersonal (communication / collaboration) actions at work. This thinking allows us to analyze the knowledge and skills we acquire and make them transferable across any field and area of study.
The context of this deep learning is created through the creativity of the educator challenging the students. Within the 21st century competency document it states that students learn this through the following elements:
The creation and use of new knowledge in the real world
Learning partnerships between and among students and teachers that focus on the process of learning
Access to digital tools and resources both inside and outside the school
This teacher uses coding as my vehicle to embark on a new journey of learning! Together jointly with the ‘Power of Yet’ I can transition my students from the old school way of approaching learning into the active, engaged world utilizing a growth mindset and computational thinking. In the past five years, while diving deep into the learning myself I have seen amazing growth in self-confidence, self-esteem and pride within my students as they see that within the errors and roadblocks they run into they are developing key learning that helps them ‘see’ the learning take place. My students have developed a strong appreciation and respect for effort, perseverance and determination because of these errors they are consistently making. Please consider checking out my blog; Archer’s TNT Classroom to read and see a few of these experiences in action with; The Hour of Code Event we hosted at Lakewood Elementary School, which has now become an annual event my classroom runs, or Inksmith’s Crazy K8 experience that led to some deep learning and experiential teaching as well by my own students who empowered others to consider the world of coding.
I recall always being very, discouraged growing up as a student. I struggled at school with many aspects of learning, which is why I have made it my mission to rewire and transition todays youth with the new way of thinking, that does not worry about failing. Computational thinking allows for grace in failures because we learn within that context what does not work, which also identifies the next steps to attempt.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take” - Wayne Gretzky
Students armed with success’ and failures using coding with Micro:bits, Makey Makey, Scratch and so many other incredible options out there take these three individuals thoughts into action. The become change agents and change makers in todays world.
I recall sitting in a chair in Paris, France last year in April at the Microsoft Global Educational Exchange, otherwise known as the E2. I was sitting listening to one of the most inspiring keynotes by Anthony Salcito on becoming a change maker. Change makers take one action and make it something spectacular. Change makers create change agents (students / youth) and these agents of change will be venturing into this world we live in armed with a new mindset and a goal at hand.
This day I remember thinking, that this is a cool and inspiring mindset to have. What I did not realize nor considered until I reflected upon my learning after the event was that in order to have the title of a change maker, one would need a vehicle in order to reframe and reset the nature of things. I decided that in this moment I wanted to become someone that could create change agents with something I was inspired with and had developed a strong passion for; coding.
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it could happen, others make it happen”-Michael Jordan
Coding as I see it is an instant engagement with its magical ‘tools of the trade’ in Micro:bits, Makey Makeys and online platforms with Scratch, Minecraft and so many others. Students love this learning because its game based learning in action, but with a side of things that allow educators to tease out learning in meaningful ways to tackle the real world problems and also develop an awareness and understanding of 21st century competencies in action as well.
Students living with growth mindset tackle life’s problems with a new framework to problem solve with. These change agents then consciously and or unconsciously pass this new world of thought to others around them, possibly even their own children and grandchildren and before we know it, we all live in a world of change agents.
This is something that warms this educator’s / father’s heart. This makes me extremely proud to work so diligently and actively alongside the iconic change maker movement happening with computational thinking in the context of coding. I love sitting side by side learning alongside my own students as we venture into the unknown together as a team in the learning journey. When I changed my own mindset, I began to learn more and more from my own students, they became teachers in the process, and I became a better educator, father and role model in the process too!
Become a Coding Change Maker!
So, back to the original question; what is coding?!? Why explore it?!?
Well plain, simple and easy; coding arms your kids (I say kids because my students and own kids are my children for life) with the ability to tackle anything life throws at them with the confidence and mindset that they will always find a solution to everything and anything in time. As a parent, if there is one thing I want to instill into my children, it’s that right there!
Thanks for reading and consider joining the code to change maker movement!
About the Author
Grade 5/6 Teacher Lakewood Elementary School Grand Erie District School Board Twitter: @ArcherJoe AboutMe: Joe Archer Microsoft Fellow, Expert Educator, Trainer: Joe Archer MEC ID Founder of Archer’s TNT Podcast