Children in full programming mode at the Fun Palace, State Library of Queensland
Children in full programming mode at the Fun Palace, State Library of Queensland

1. Lone Wolf vs Collaborative

Computer programming encourages collaboration. Development of digital solutions is complex and requires a variety of skills: research, psychology, creativity, logic and analysis, building tactile projects, arts and crafts, problem solving, communication and presentation, and project management. It is common for digital projects to be developed in a team environment either in the workforce or in a classroom

2.Technology as a Toy vs Change Makers and Social Change

Computer programming and more generally computational thinking and design thinking enables and develops change makers. Technology is a tool that empowers children to build, create, innovate and create change in the world. Children all around the world are using technology to solve problems that are important to them.

  • At the Young ICT Explorers competition at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, this year (2016) a group of four year 6 girls built an instrument that tests and determines water turbidity to help communities access to clean water. The instrument was made using Arduino.
  • As part of the MicroMakers II programme at Bulimba State School a team of two girls built a companion robot for people who are lonely. The robot tells jokes and stories that the girls wrote and recorded themselves. The robot was made using Makey Makey and Scratch.

Both of these projects are also human-centred.

3. All Maths and Logic vs Creative, Storytelling and Human-centred

Our students engage in storytelling and art by creating their own animation movies and interactive digital artwork. Other creative and human-centred projects include creating an animated greeting card and building your own electronic musical instrument e.g. a piano or drum kit.

Examples of projects made using Scratch are:

An animation movie: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/116001774/

Interactive digital art: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/95257082/

An electronic musical instrument: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/108929399/

A Happy Mother’s Day e-card: https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/107810334/

4. Digital and abstract vs Tactile and Real World

Digital projects are not just purely digital or abstract. Digital projects are generally also tactile:

  • As part of the MicroMakers II programme at Bulimba State School a team of three girls built a game controller by developing its 3D design in Tinkercad, 3D printing the design and connecting it to a Makey Makey. The Makey Makey was integrated to a multi-level maze game they built in Scratch. The project involved 3D design and printing, circuitry and computer programming. The team presented their project at the MicroMakers II Hackathon Day to the wonder of the audience.

  • I was invited to watch presentations by student teams at Oakleigh State School. The subject was geography. The project was to develop a digital solution, using computational thinking and design thinking, to help prepare households for natural disasters. Students built digital solutions using Scratch and Makey Makey.

  • Our students built their own Dance Dance Revolution game using Scratch to create the game programme and Makey Makey and arts and crafts skills to build the hardware. Here is the game programme developed in Scratch:  https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/116680425/   We built the game hardware using Makey Makey, cardboard, self-adhesive book coverings, aluminium foil and sticky tape. We learned about circuitry, conductive and nonconductive materials.

Students eager to bust some moves on the Dance Dance Revolution game they created using Scratch and Makey Makey
Students eager to bust some moves on the Dance Dance Revolution game they created using Scratch and Makey Makey

5. Genius Pre-requisite vs Accessible and Inclusive       

Technology is a tool that enables and empowers. It is a tool for everyone and anyone. Regardless of your academic abilities or aptitude for maths, computer programming is for everyone. There are successful professional software developers that do not enjoy maths. There are creatives and artists who use computer programming as just another tool in their toolkit.

I have had numerous stories of students who are not confident in a traditional academic setting yet have found their passion or a confidence booster in learning to code. There is no correlation between engagement and interest in learning to code and traditional academic environment. They are polar opposites in terms a learning environment.

Learning to code requires being comfortable with uncertainty. The learning process is based on trial and error. Students learn to be ok with having a guess, checking the results and learning from observations. There is nothing to fear from receiving error messages. Errors are ok. It is how you respond that matters.

We also have had students who are autistic and have found coding classes to be a confidence booster in their ability to problem solve and create projects.

We also have coding classes available in Auslan and other signed languages for children who are deaf, hearing impaired or hearing but non-verbal.

Coding is for people who like to work on their own or collaborate with others. Coding is fun but it can also create social change. Coding is creative and human-centred. Coding is tactile. Coding is inclusive and accessible. Coding is for everyone.

Children working together and learning to code with Scratch
Children working together and learning to code with Scratch