Computer Science Education Week begins today, and is often associated with the #HourOfCode. Some students will be receiving their first introduction to coding, and while it’s exciting for children to try new things and be introduced to options that may be valuable to them in the long run — from solving problems to employment opportunities — I wonder if this Education Week article may be one of the most important ones to consider.
I’m always conflicted when it comes to this week in education. Most years, I try to do something associated with coding.
- We’ve explored activities on the code.org website.
- We’ve used Dash and Dot.
- We’ve created projects with Scratch Jr. on the iPads.
The more that I learn about self-regulation though, the more that I struggle with some of these coding options. Many students become dysregulated …
- by the moving robots with the numerous sounds and blinking lights (Biological Domain).
- by the time spent in front of a screen (Biological Domain).
- by the activities that may exceed their reading, writing, or math skills, and lead to a frustrating — instead of “positive” — struggle (Cognitive Domain).
- by the need to work collaboratively with other people to complete the tasks effectively (Social Domain).
- by the multiple failures that may or may not lead to eventual successes (Cognitive Domain).
In a relatively small Kindergarten classroom with 27 students that’s beside another classroom — with no full wall — and 26 students, the thought of knowingly causing this dysregulation is hard for me. Paula and I have worked for a long time with our amazing kids to create a calm learning environment for everyone, and what might some of these coding options do to this environment?
There is also another important reality to consider: neither Paula or I are particularly comfortable with coding. We’ve both had a few experiences with it, but quickly the tasks become more than either of us can do with ease — or even with a good struggle — and this leads to another problem. At times, as the adults, we also feel dysregulated, and often the children, pick up on these feelings and mimic them in their own words and actions. So knowing this, again makes me wonder, what can we do about this, and how can we still provide children with a meaningful learning experience without undo stress?
All of this thinking brings me back to the Education Week article. What if, instead of focusing on the tool or activity, we make this week about developing thinking and problem solving skills? These are two key components of our Kindergarten Program Document. For children, how we support the development of these skills, may be in different ways.
- It could be through coding activities or the use of robots such as Dash, Dot, or Sphero.
- It could be through low-tech coding options that include the introduction and reinforcement of mathematical terminology, such as directional language.
- It could be through building or art options — maybe even with a Makerspace potential — that could eventually connect with the two other bullet points.
My thinking is that these options are differentiated. They allow us to focus on the child first, and develop choices that will help this child meet with success, while engaging in a positive struggle. They also link back to a bigger area of learning — around thinking and problem solving — that will be worth continuing to explore well after this week is over.
As educators, we constantly talk about knowing our kids best. This is as true over Computer Science Education Week as over any other week of the year. Let us continue to be true to our students, as well as ourselves, and find options that challenge thinking, inspire problem solving, but still support a calm learning environment for all. What do you think? As this exciting week begins, I’d love to hear what you have planned.