During our latest EC&I 833 class we spent some time using technological tools that were used in the past to help build skills such as typing, math facts and even coding. We explored these technological innovations as part of a discussion on how educational technology has been evolving over time. A few tools that we tried included:
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing ( I remember using a tool very similar, but it was called All the Write Type)
Number Munchers ( A tool I still think students would find fun and useful even today)
WebQuests ( I will admit, I have utilized a webquest a few times throughout my teaching career thus far)
While some of these educational games never underwent a modern day make over, there are still some sites that provide a way to teach students some of the valuable skills. For example, teachers and/or parents can sign their children up for typing practice using the website typing.com. Some modern math game sites and apps I have used include Xtra math, Sumdog and Khan Academy. Now while these sites do help students build their math or other skills, and allows them to apply their knowledge, they don’t necessarily encourage students to create, which a focal point of the constructivists theory.
According to Wikipedia, “Constructionist learning is when learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge”. Seymour Papert took this one step further, advocating that technology can be a driving force in helping students to be drivers in their own learning and can help them apply their knowledge and acquire more. He believed one way this could be done was through coding and he created Logo program. He compared the logo program to having someone immersed in a new country to learn a new language.
During our EC&I 833 class we had the opportunity to try out Papert’s original Logo program. We were to complete the activities from the Programming Logo workbook. What really stumped me was Exercise 3 where we had to get the turtle to go sideways first instead of up and then across.
What I learned was that I needed to hit rt 90 then fd 50 or I would continually be moving up and down. When doing this activity I thought how this would be extremely helpful for people whose jobs rely on map reading. A friend of mine is a pilot and he was telling me a story about how one day all of his electronic equipment went down. He could not rely on the planes electronic map or his iPad’s map application. He had to pull out his map and the degrees on a paper map he needed to follow. I think this program would be also be useful for anyone wanting to go into engineering or architecture as they have to build a variety of things and need to have accurate measurements and angles. In addition, I think this program would prove useful for carpenters or home builders as their work relies heavily on perfect angles and measurements and how many plans have been digitalized now.
This also reminds me of @MeganLinMoore and her blog post Evolved Perspectives of Education Technologies. In her post she talks about Lego Mindstorms. With Lego Mindstorms, children can build and program Lego robots. What I found most interesting is that Lego originally released its Mindstorms Robotics Interventions Program in 1998, and named the program after Seymour Papert’s book “Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas”. I feel Papert’s ideas are a driving force for our education system today. Our school has a robotics club that meets a few times after school, we have some coding bots that we can use in our classrooms to teach students how to code, and our school library continues to add books about coding to its collection each year.
This leads to the question of what is the real world benefit of students knowing how to code? Will knowing how to code actually make our students smarter? Are these the kinds of skills that students will need to be successful in their future jobs? I think that the answer is yes. According to an article by Raise Smart Kid, there are 14 benefits of coding. Some of the skills coding helps to develop include; computational thinking, problem solving, perseverance, algorithmic thinking and creating. An article published by CIC News, discussed Canada’s tech jobs outlook for 2020. The article points out that there is currently a shortage of people trained to work in the tech sector for the 2020 year. In particular it points out that a person who has the ability to code in languages such as Java and Python will have a wide array of job opportunities in some of Canada’s largest cities.
I conclusion, when I think Papert and his Constructivist theory, I do believe that there are many skills that can be gained through learning how to code; not only does coding help develop skills such as problem solving, collaboration and creativity, there seems to be great opportunity in the current and looks to be future job market which utilize these skills.