Coding: Creating a Tinkering Mindset in Young Students
Building a Tinkering Mindset in Young Students Through Making
Q: In teaching students about technology, what are some of the things that you think students should learn to build, do, or learn? What pieces of information do you think should be at the center of these skill sets?
A: Students have to recognize new technology as tool to make things. For example, by understanding how to program an Arduino and programming actions for it, the student understands how it works and how to open new possibilities in their work in the physical world. By understanding how to feed text into a Post-It and then using that code to write a line of code to take it to the Internet, the student better understands how to use the power of new tools to their benefit in an analog world. Furthermore, these digital tools can be borrowed and used by people in the physical world when they have an opportunity to see the connection.
Q: Is there a particular section of programming you think is important or key to a student understanding and grasping how to make or use new technology tools?
A: Many of the most exciting and useful ideas for teaching in the technology classroom are things about making. By recognizing and understanding how digital technology can be used to make things, students learn how to make that technology accessible in different ways and also how to make things of their own without necessarily knowing how technology works.
Q: What are some of the mistakes you’ve seen people make when they learn to use digital technology tools? What are the most common ones?
A: Computer programming requires the ability to understand how technology works, and the ability to make digital things work. The way they get this is to make things that “think” like computers. For example, learning to take an idea from the internet and turn it into an application requires a lot of thinking about how the application of digital technology works. Learning to use the Internet to make things is interesting and fun, but requiring people to think about digital technology processes, thinking through how objects can be converted into applications.
Q: When you make someone’s working, what component do you think the student might find most interesting and help them see that they have the capability to understand how the computer work?
A: I hope that it’s difficult to describe what I mean by making, since the best way to engage people in this subject is to approach them with questions that lead them to make things for themselves. I ask this of a bunch of people from kids to retired professionals. Teachers need to ask simple questions like, “Is this your idea? Can you explain it?” and “Why did you do it?”
Teachers need to create a pathway to what they want students to learn through work they do in their own life: take time to learn new skills, identify themselves with past or new skill. They need to work towards achievement of goals and dreams. Students need to spend time with positive role models. Lastly, students need a class filled with people interested in technology, who embrace teaching it in the way of technology itself.
Q: What are some of the students’ ideas on technology, especially new technology that relates to their lives?
A: Too often, the teachers are trying to teach content like “how to use a mouse” or “the alphabet.” This is not really teaching. Learning how to use technology requires looking at all the ways people use computers. For example, the social scientist Jason Linsky describes the web as an “open platform for communication” and says that it is based on building digital public space. And Brendan Irving, author of The Computer Code, writes about how the power of technology was essential to the public’s improvement after the Holocaust and Chinese Revolution. People are using technology to build a better world.