Sunday, May 19, 2013

Children, Computing and Creativity

Having written earlier on why programming needs to be taught in elementary schools, this year was very rewarding in my new job as I could expand the programming from just fifth grade to almost the entire school - grades 1-5. 

It started with a noon time "Scratch Club" using Scratch for grades 3-5. At the time I was apprehensive about introducing it to third grade having never done it before, but they just took off. It was almost as though those students were waiting for something like this to happen. Here is an article about the noontime program. The ideas, the projects, the thinking, so much so that when the third grade scouts troop had to pick a project to work on, they picked something related to programming and technology. It was wonderful to see that. 

In about October, I got introduced to Tynker, a new block based programming platform with very cool, built-in concepts. It gave the students a choice. In December, Tynker revamped its look and feel and classroom management. I got emboldened to use it with second grade. Not only did I introduce it to second grade, I invited the first graders as well, having seen them at work and believing in their capabilities. The first graders are my power users of the program.

With so many students exposed to programming, I decided that celebrating world-wide Scratch day this year was something I would really like to do. Having received the stamp of approval from my principal, I went ahead and created the event.

Without a doubt, despite all of the work involved in planning and executing the event, it has been one of the most rewarding days in this past school year. The number of students who came and tried it out for the first time, the number of parents who were trying it out and got hooked onto it and the sheer breadth of ideas and creativity that I saw was phenomenal. The students ranged in age from Pre-K to 8th grade. They ranged from novices to advanced students. They worked on such a wide variety of projects. Some of them worked on the challenge project that I assigned them - To come up with an environmental problem, explain it and come up with a resolution to the same. Several folks asked why we couldn't have this event more often. All of it enhanced my belief on continuing to introduce and guide the children through the world of programming, in the process letting them create, think, reason, problem solve and have a lot fun.... So, waiting for next year's world wide Scratch day for the next such event!

Here's an article that just got published by the BBC on computing in K-12.