Writing that silly little program yesterday reminded me of how grateful I am that I learned to code. I have no memory of why I signed up for Mr. Cook’s Grade 11 computer class. It was the first time that it was offered and he was making it up as he went along. There certainly wasn’t a curriculum we were following. And, we were learning Fortran! Not the good Fortran that we used at university. It was pretty primitive and there was a great deal of unlearning and learning again in order to tackle Fortran IV and Watfor.
It was a classic case in action “They won’t remember your content but they will remember how you felt”. I still remember the rush when a program was returned and I got 10/10. There were no rubrics then and, quite frankly, I can’t remember how they were marked. I do know that he was doing the programs along with us and compared our results against his. We would get out cards back wrapped in our printout with the mark written in pencil on the outside. Given all that I’ve learned about assessment and evaluation over the years, I can only think of one way to describe it – quaint!
But the marks have faded from memory. I know that I did well in the course, took it in Grade 12, and then took plenty of computer science at university and went on to teach it in the classroom. But what remains in memory was how good I felt to get a program to run and how he shared in the excitement. It’s one thing that I tried to replicate when I had classes of my own.
Now, I’m not about to suggest that any student, new to the discipline today, should be thrown to the wolves and begin to learn with an industrial strength programming language. But realize that no student shows up on the first day of class wondering what computers and computing is about. They’ve had the experience of interaction with computing devices for years and experienced their own level of satisfaction with feedback from whatever they’ve experienced. I would suggest that it makes that introduction to computing more difficult than ever.
Fortunately, we have great programmers at work trying to enhance that experience.
I ran into a reference to a new experience released in January this year through UKEDChat.
I think that there are probably very few students that will get excited and have fond memories if they cut their teeth on hard core coding. But, in a game and presentation environment like Code Kingdoms, they just might!