Week 6 Reflection for EDET678: What are the compelling arguments both for and against computer coding in schools?

Aleta May

EDET 678 Emerging Technologies with Aleta May

Week Six Reflection

After reading the articles provided and that I personally found through research, it is very difficult to imagine why we are NOT doing more computer coding—computer science—where students are taught to create. It seems that this should be a given in our classes. I believe our school district has been pretty great at keeping up with technology—though remoteness has brought a certain amount of drag to building programs simply because it has not been very long since we have gained enough bandwidth that we could depend on without continual backup plans. Although this is still an issue, it is getting better each year. We actually do need to keep our computer and iPad equipment up-to-date enough to have the capacity to receive the signals. I think the most important area right now is to update our wireless airport receivers so that they have a higher student capacity.

There are wifi signal boosters coming out that may help. Maybe these would be perfect for a wifi booster that will help classrooms with the most reception problems to have fewer issues.  Here is an example, although it does not look like they are available for purchase yet: https://www.plumewifi.com/faq

I understand that there are ways to teach computer science without computers—however, I am more apt to want what the real thing for our students. I noticed that in certain rural areas here in Oregon, there is a dirth of computer or other technology equipment, and what is available is far outdated. This clearly leads me to appreciate teaching in rural Alaska where at least we are struggling with how to best use what we have, which has been reasonably updated.

I learned so much about a topic that just came up in my thinking last semester—coding. Now my understanding of why coding is important has expanded so much.

When Brian, a high school math teacher, responded to me, he got me thinking about the balance between sticking to reality and pushing forward. I believe we as educators are responsible for incorporating a variety of coding projects across subject areas; however, the school district has a big responsibility in encouraging our efforts as we step out into these new to us areas. I liken this to special education laws, and how one time, not in Alaska, I was actually told that I was expected to keep my moderate to severe students in the classroom to watch grass grow! By the way, the principal did not even realize that one such student had already passed the 8th grade benchmark. So is district support needed—this is a resounding yes! When I pair students off in my room to work together on reading according to current practice taught to me in my college program, I don’t want to be told from an evaluating principal that my room is too small to have students read together in pairs—and to stick to round robin style (which is shown to be not best practice to say the least). Then either barge a bigger modular room to me so I may serve the needs of the many students coming to me with best practices or, . . . what?! Scheduling does not allow me to visit each room for K-12 where there are definite needs across the grade levels. Multilevel teaching in any subject area is the way I teach, and technology/reading are the electrical threads that tie it all together.

Tricia added a thought to my comments–she is a math 5th thru 12th grade teacher as well.  So I was very happy to get responses from two math teachers with my idea for a hybrid math and computer science class.

This week to encourage a couple of responses to my WordPress Blog, sending a Twitter message directly to two people I had responded two in their blogs worked well, in that Brian responded back to me and I in turn to him. Where one blog I responded to, came up as waiting for moderation, so I sent a Twitter directly to this person as well and will likely get a response from her as well.

Here are the replies I gave or received in Week 6:

Sarah,

I am wondering whether our current educational system with so much over testing is preparing our students to fear trying to gain the skills they will need for future jobs. Are the assessments we currently give assessing problem solving skills? Maybe in a very limited manner when it comes to math; but if they are not learning critical thinking skills that prepare them to think of more than one option, we are teaching them that problem solving is too hard for them. I think coding helps students to think around situations by finding ways to create that were not previously thought of.

It seems to me that although we should definitely pay attention to the nuances that manifest throughout a child’s developmental stages, waiting until around age 14 reminds me of trying to shield them from many other things that are natural to their environment. I have to consider too that it is important not to trade computer art for paint and a paintbrush—why not do both?

It is also okay to learn just a few steps ahead of students, enough to get them going, and then grow with them. In my view, our society has segmented every skill into such a professional subsection that we have feared or shunned people who think to step outside their own professional corner. We segment people by age, by interest (before they know what else is out there to be interested in), in every career field. It is not affordable to even use the services of so many specialized people. Maybe this is why we need to embed computer science into as many subject areas as we can. I like the idea of a MakerSpace where we can reach for drawing paper, hand tools as well as technology tools, all for a variety of ways to demonstrate learning.

Hi Laura,

I think the computer science careers are so varied that there are enough subareas in this field to interest many people. It is funny to me that before reading over the last two weeks, I had not really thought about building my own apps. I looked up the link: http://csunplugged.org/activities and I am glad you called my attention to this. There is so much at this site to explore. This art/math connection is nice: http://nrich.maths.org/7020 It is called “Painting by Numbers.”

Hi Brian,

Response to Week 6 Blog:  https://akmathteacher.wordpress.com/blog/blogs/comment-page-1/#comment-23

Great point about how the demands for programmers are growing; and only 29% of graduates are qualified to fill these jobs. I believe we are moving in the direction of preparing our high school graduates to not only consider going into these programs, but also to graduate with 21st Century computer science skills that will assist them in most careers.

Wow, what a good idea, to create a three-part course for high school. What I have noticed is that some of the electives we try to set up for our students are sometimes rocky. For example, telling a teacher that they will be teaching digital photography without any cameras and leaving them to seek out curriculum for this; or telling them they will teach music and rely on the teacher to obtain ukuleles through donations from another student so they will have actual instruments to teach music with in a meaningful way sounds inappropriate. Wouldn’t it be better to equip students with computer science experiences where the Arts can be incorporated into it; for example, music and photography art?

I guess my main point here is that requiring students to take computer programming / science seems logical, because we can weave into the classes freedom for students to pursue their personal interests—including high school.

akmathteacher Brian says:

June 26, 2016 at 5:29 pm (Edit)

I like your idea to allow high school students to use computer science courses for math. But we need to be sure that students can not only get their math credits through computer science courses. I think that in HS students should need 4 credits of math to graduate. The first three credits should be the required math classes (algebra, Geometry, ect) and the fourth credit should be an elective math class. A computer science could count as their fourth credit.

Thank you for your reply, Brian! Could computer science be embedded into geometry and algebra? I’m sure this sounds a lot easier than the reality of putting this together. It would be nice to have some ready made curriculum embedded into the course as a place to launch. Aleta

triciaturley05 says:

June 27, 2016 at 12:35 am (Edit)

I like your hybrid idea. However, as a person who went through the math education program for teaching 5-12 grade, I would like to see that hybrid idea modeled on the college level to help me get a better grasp of how that might look at the high school level. That would help me feel more prepared for teaching that type of class. I’ve been out of teaching high school math for years, but I still cannot wrap my brain around it. I’m just not familiar with enough coding. I also like Brian’s idea of 3 regular math classes and a choice of a hybrid math/computer science class for the fourth class.

My reply:

Tricia–Thank you so much for your response to my post as well! I feel the same as far as not being familiar enough with coding yet to apply it to teaching yet. For me it will take experimentation–but I am not a high school math teacher at all! Also, coding will need to become a hobby so I feel comfortable getting started using it in classes I teach–along with this Arduino electronics concepts. I am noticing myself learning faster than I thought I would, however. One thing I am noticing is that when I am in the village, I need things to do after work. Previously, when I taught here in Oregon, my husband and I had 3 daughters still at home, and we were taking care of my mom, as well as building our house. I taught part time, and Dan drove 50 mins each way to & from work. We were officially called the “sandwich generation,” still taking care of kids while taking care of parent(s).  So I definitely can relate to what it is like not to have extra time to devote to experimenting on my own time. I think we need a curriculum in Math handed to us that has enough coding instructions that directly apply to Algebra and Geometry (and fractals) to get going. I dream big–but start small.

Jessica,

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Literally, people who are mechanics, construction workers, beauticians; and the list goes on endlessly; use technology. I think what opened my eyes to this even more was when I read about how we can create apps with coding. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this until this week—but that is the point—I should have already known! There are more opportunities than ever to start a personal business and using an app for this endeavor is needed. Realizing this is not a coding issue, as far as I know, I remember the first time a beautician swiped my debit card in the white “square” for payment for her services. Okay—I had been living in the village and not been to many beauticians, then I found one that was just starting her own business. The more computer, creating skills our students get, the better off they will be—this applies to me as well!

Aleta

 

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