Programing and Pedagogy: Can They Mix?

An article this morning in the Telegraph (UK) highlighted an education problem occurring in Europe, but I’m sure it is occurring here in Ontario as well. The author explains in the article that UK schools are teaching computer skills that are limited to Microsoft Office, and are not branching out to other areas of computer science such as coding and programing. While computer science is a growing field in the world, companies are struggling to find adequately trained personnel, a problem the article attributes to the school system. The article highlights attempts to mediate this situation at an early level, referring to the effort from MIT Media Lab to build an interactive creative software, Scratch.

Scratch is easy to understand, and powerful at creating games, videos, and other interactive activities for the computer. Best of all, the software introduces key concepts of coding and programing to its users in a fun, interactive way.

The greatest thing about Scratch is that it can be used in all disciplines. Doing a unit on story elements in English? Have the students create a short video to demonstrate the parts of a story. Need to get kids involved in geometry? Have the students create an interactive game to use shapes to build different objects.

However, all these applications are easier said then done. Teaching the students to use the software could be laborious, as can learning the software yourself. While unique individual student projects might seem more plausible than whole class involvement, Scratch adds another tool to your arsenal to encourage creativity, as well as foster an interest in programing through any course or discipline the student might find themselves in.

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