Programming Our Learning

Back in December of 2013, Computing in the Core and sponsored Computer Science Education Week as an effort to inspire K-12 students to take interest in computer science.  Hour of Code became the focal event of the week and was endorsed by some of the world’s most recognized programmers, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Coding is the process of using programming language to create computer software and websites, among other things.  You can think of code as language in the art of programming.  

Why learn to program?
Programming is a powerful skill to learn because it encourages critical thinking, problem solving, and allows for individual expression.  In order to program a robot, write code for an app, or create a website, the programmer needs to think critically about purpose and function of a final product.  All along the way, the creator(s) are problem solving issues that arise, working through glitches and developing a final product that is designed to be completely functional.  Lastly, programming can be used as a powerful tool for expression.  Various programming languages allow individuals to express an idea or share their vision through the execution of code and programming efforts.  

Think of an app you often use or a website you frequently visit.  The final product you see or use was developed over time with you, the user, in mind.  The developers thought critically about final outcomes and the kind experiences a user would have along the way.  Through the process of programming, an individual must use logic to determine order or processes and anticipate likely outcomes.  They must test their creation, problem-solve scenarios as they are presented and troubleshoot issues along the way.  A successful program or end-product is one that successfully executes the original purpose, idea, or function.  

Programming in Early Childhood
One simple way to introduce basic concepts of programming to children in early childhood classes is to have them create mazes.  A maze challenges the user to find a way out by offering a number of options along the way.  In order to create a maze, the creator has to present options and anticipate possible user responses.  Another way to build programming capacity is to encourage computational thinking by having children dictate or write directions for a classmate or parent to execute.  With the recently emerging national interest in computer science and coding, there are now a handful of easy-to-use programming tools like Daisy the Dinosaur for the youngest of children and the more popular Scratch programming language, created at MIT’s Media Labs and intended for use with children as young as kindergarten.  

At Bennett Day School, our TinkerLab and classrooms aim to be learning environments where children’s logic, problem solving skills, and expression will be fostered, challenged, and strengthened through experiences that encourage critical thinking, real-world problem solving, and creative expression demonstrated through material mastery.