Monday, 29 December 2014

Turns Out, Our Children are Pretty Darn Smart

An Hour of Code

Last time out I talked about going out to my daughters former elementary school to present an hour of code to two separate classes. So, my hour(s) of code would be spent first with a class that was a bunch of grade fours along with their grade seven big buddies.  I had really no idea what to expect.  Of course, if you read my last blog you would know what my history in this area was like and know that my expectation may have been set a bit low.  Turns out they were set WAY too low.  I understand that there is a large difference in schools acceptance or ability to provide technology to their students based on geography, economics, leadership and may other factors.  There is an entire discussion on this that we could participate in but I think we’ll leave it for another time.  Suffice it to say that the school I was at did not have many technology deficiencies that I could see. 

Kids and Technology

When I walked into class the teacher pointed me at the display adapter coming out of the wall for the built in projector.  Then a big cart rolls into the room with tablets for all.  Wow, heaven for geeks like me.  Because of pressed time, our hour of code was only going to be about 40 minutes.  Not much time so I thought I would skip the customization part of the robot game in Touch Develop, our preferred code language for the day.  In our case we were gong to fix “Jetpack Jumper” and then I would show them where to go on their own to learn about customizing their game.  The fact that we had a fully functioning computer lab right in their classroom was wonderful and made everybody comfortable.  The first session was with the fourth graders and their grade 7 buddies.  Some of the kids even had their own laptops with them.

And They’re Off

So I started off by introducing myself and what I do.  Then put up the introductory video produced by Hour of Code.  Once I put up the link to the Touch Develop tutorial I was not prepared for what happened next.  Yes, there were some whose devices were not working properly (turns out some browsers on some devices need to be setup just right or they can’t do the tutorial) and a very few that were confused but the rest were off like a bunch of race horses.  They were competing with each other to get things done.  Even though I would think none of them had used Touch Develop before, they were working it like pros.  When I asked if anybody in the room had every written code before I was also surprised that in a room of about 40 children about 6-10 held up hands.  The tutorial is designed for age 13-16 and these kids were 10-12.  Within 15 minutes some were already finished and starting to customize…  Wait a minute, I haven’t told you how to do that yet!  They basically told me (like I was a bit slow) “isn’t it obvious?” and off they went injecting flying bananas and toasters into the game like pros.  Honestly, I had trouble keeping up with these guys.

Observations

Unofficial observations indicated that the boys in the room tended to be more enthusiastic and competitive in getting things done.  Perhaps it’s just that the boys were louder about it.  A few girls in the room just quietly went about getting things done while the boys were much more about making sure everybody in the room knew that they could make bananas fly.  It was interesting to watch.  The grade 6 class was a bit smaller and more intimate and there was more balance.  One young man clearly had a knack for things as he was done the tutorial in about 10 minutes (didn’t feel the need to watch the videos) and had customizations flying left and right.  He had a bit of a crowd gather to see what he did before the class ended.
I was heartened by the enthusiasm and the skills demonstrated on this Hour of Code day and hope that many of the children, at lease, explore opportunities in a software career.  It would be great for out business to have so many eager students pursuing what we already love so much.
These kids are SMART.  They don’t need a lot of encouragement to dig in.  They love to explore, to try new things and they are good at it!  Just give a child an opportunity.  Volunteer at schools or boys and girls clubs.  Tell them what you do and what you love about it.  Some may follow you or carve out their own path you just never know.

Resources

Feel like giving it a try or have family and friends that might like to try their had at simple, fun and rewarding introductory coding.  Try out some of these links:
A bit more advanced?  Looking to start a career in coding or IT and want to learn more?  Microsoft Virtual Academy is here for you: