Hi, my name is Joy. Let me tell you a little bit about what I do.
I’m a school teacher. After a rousing school year in my 5th grade our class gathered for the last circle of the year. We shared, one at a time, what we appreciated the most this year. They could have reflected on anything, but the one thing the kids reminisced about was learning how to code. Yes, that’s right: I taught 5th graders how to code. I take that back; they played with code and they taught themselves amazing things.
Over the last two years I’ve made it my goal (in my public school classroom) to teach every student in my class how to write computer code.
I opened my first class with a question; what did they know about computer languages. I asked them how computers work, and what kinds of things are controlled by computers. Unsurprisingly, they knew the names of a handful of computer languages and were able to identify things around the room that had been programmed.
After a short, but important, talk about using the information they were about to learn for good and not evil, I asked the question, “so… what do you want to make?” A pensive silence filled the room. Then one student said, “I want to build a game.” Of course he did; they all did. Kids love games. I directed the class to a page of possible tools they could use on my class website, and with a little instruction, they were off. Students were trying stuff, sharing ideas, asking questions, then concentrating intensely. All hoping they would, one day, make the game of their dreams.
It was no surprise when none of the kids made a game that first day. However, there were high fives all around at the end of class when students projected what they had been building on the whiteboard. Most just looked like pictures, some had color, and depending on the platform they had used, some had motion, but the most impressive thing was that each one was unique.
As the year went on, different kids approached me with ideas they had, or bug fixes they couldn’t master, or ask how to remix something their friend had made. Students stayed up late, skipped recess, and couldn’t wait to show me things they had made over the weekend.
By the end of the year, every student had achieved his or her goal – to make a game. They had also improved their game over time, integrated ideas from other students, added complexity based on feedback, and felt a proud ownership of what they had built.
I think we would all agree that the Common Core, standardized testing, quizzes and tests have their place in our children’s education. They are, in my opinion, important parts of the learning platform, and provide teachers with a meaningful data set in which to plan future lessons. But, I think children need something else. An addition, a substitution, or an extension to the existing curriculum. Call it what you will but it needs to fire their brains and provide an outlet for all that passionate creativity.
I left my job as a public school teacher to join Treehouse. And now I’m excited to be planning a new project that will get kids coding. A project that will motivate them, challenge them and ignite the fire in their bellies. If you know some kids that want to learn tech stay tuned for a very exciting Treehouse project that is aimed at teaching kids to code.