I “facilitate” a Coding Club. It started with close to 50 students in it. Now I have three. Three students that come once a week to code. They don’t need me. These students love to code. They know exactly what they’re doing. They try to teach me something new every week, and usually my head feels like it’s going to explode with all of the new information that I learn. They’re patient though. They show me step by step what to do. They explain why each step is important. And then they provide me with an entry point, so that I can meet with success.
We talk about a lot each week. The student share with me the coding that they’ve done at home. They show me the videos that they’ve made to teach others. They even like to show their work to my Grade 1 students when they come in for lunch. They’re eager to answer questions, and even listen to my Grade 1 students’ coding stories. They’re supportive and kind, and dedicated to this club. These three students really run this club.
So why do they come each week if they’re not learning anything new? Because for those 40 minutes every week, these students get to do what they love. They also get to connect with each other and with me about something that really matters to them. They get to be the “teacher.” They’re passionate about coding, and learning matters when we get to explore what we love.
At EdCamp Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, we spoke about Coding Clubs. Many of the people there noticed that our students come to these clubs for the same reasons that I identified above. The same could be true for Dance Clubs, Art Clubs, Choirs, or Bands. It makes me sad though to think that students need to wait for this “once-a-week” to do what they love. Maybe they also get to pursue these passions in a couple of other subject areas (e.g., Visual Arts), but is this enough? I wonder if some students might think differently about school if they got to spend more time sharing their learning in a way that’s meaningful to them. I know that there is more to life than school, but school opens up many possibilities: for now and for the future. If students are inspired and engaged, this is sure to impact on students’ attitude towards school … and attitude matters. How do you encourage students to pursue their passions in the classroom? How might these passions align with different subject areas? What impact do you see this having on student success? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!
I admit that I am as far away from a coding expert as it is possible to be, so maybe I’m the wrong person to comment on this, but I will. I am curious about the attrition of the club. I have no doubt that coding is important and interesting for those three students. But what really happened to the other 47? Did they just come out to find that they don’t like coding? That they don’t see it as applicable to their lives? If so, how did they get that message? Maybe they don’t come anymore because they don’t need a club setting for this learning – they may still be coding but they can do it privately. If that’s the case, what value (if any) are they missing by a lack of face to face collaboration?
We give a lot of student clubs a real world application to strive for – the basketball team practices for the game, the choir practices for Choirfest, the knitting club makes mittens for the shelter. What real world application – with a real audience of some kind – do we give coding clubs? How do they get to see extrinsic value in their efforts?
Hoo boy. That’s a lot of questions. Guess I didn’t need to profess my lack of expertise in coding. It is sort of written all over this comment. 🙂
These are great questions, Kristi! I actually did do some investigating to find out what happened to the other 47 students. Here’s what I found out:
1) Some students didn’t really understand what coding was when they signed up. They thought it was all about gaming (and Minecraft). When they realized there was more to it than just playing a game, they decided that they weren’t interested.
2) Some students had conflicting commitments with other clubs that were running at the same time. They were up front about this at the beginning, but trying to coordinate a single time for everyone was a challenge. These students decided to leave. They committed to the other clubs first. (The three students that do come are really eager to make the Coding Club two days a week instead of just one. I’m considering this, and then maybe some of these other students will want to come back.)
3) Some students found coding a real struggle. They were fine initially, but as the coding became more complicated, they were less interested. Students supported each other, but when it comes to coding, I think that there is a big element of perseverance. Some students decided that the struggle wasn’t for them.
4) Some students just didn’t want to go outside for recess. They stayed through the cold weather, but now that the weather is nice again, they’re eager to go outside with their friends.
5) Some students moved schools. There might be a Coding Club at their new school, in which case, they’re still coding somewhere.
As for the real audience, we have a Board Blog where students are sharing some of their work. I’ve uploaded some videos of what students have created. Some made Scratch games/programs that others could remix, and they’ve helped each other out with this, with the goal of publishing what they created. Many of the students that even initially joined the clubs were into gaming, and the idea of creating a game was motivating. But it’s hard to create a game, and again, they really needed to persevere and problem solve to see the final results.
Maybe coding isn’t for everyone. While a drop of 47 students is HUGE (and I know that), only a couple of students even knew what coding was when they signed up for it. Maybe students need some prior knowledge to take more interest and go further. And maybe, if students code more in the classroom, the interest will increase for next year. That’s my hope! Maybe we can also come up with a different real world application (maybe the coders from this year can even help). Any ideas, Kristi?
Thanks for getting me thinking more!