Think back to an experience when you were completely enthralled with a new game or a book that you couldn’t stop reading, that’s the power of play.
This is a reference to multiple things but in an educational technology context, especially coding, I want to highlight a few things.
Importance of Play
During various coding initiatives, I have observed that this current generation is very adept at being extremely competent of consuming digital media on various platforms, however, this is hardly enough for their needs.
I teach or host several ICT/Digital Media related clubs; a coding club, a Minecraft club, digital storytelling club, Youtube club etc. A surprising denominator in all of these is the lack of creativity that comes through play. It almost seems to me that this generation has only played games and with toys that have only a correct way of using them, instead of making the kids to use their own imagination and boosting their storytelling skills.
During free play, children develop multiple skills crucial to their learning, but the main impact for me is the ability to see things of what they aren’t:
Play enables our brain to make connections that otherwise aren’t obvious and that allow our creativity blossom. It also develops our natural curiosity to inquiry and to find out, thus encouraging us to be risk-takers. For me, being a risk-taker means to try new things, to fail and learn from that experience. If students haven’t had the opportunity to free play, then we need to facilitate an environment where this is possible, otherwise, they’ll become code inspectors, not creators.
Importance of Continuity
Hour of code is a great provocation, a tuning in activity. I feel that it is more directed to adults to showcase what is possible. As educators, we need to make sure that we see beyond the hour of code and create a learning environment that is conducive to computational thinking, not just a one of coding week. We desperately need to make sure that when we introduce coding we do it a sustainable manner. Students who understand coding are much more likely to use the logic and skills embedded into it in other problem-solving situations. I am more and more concerned with statements like: “Oh my students are just doing a bit of Scratch”, these students deserve a bit more than that. Students should be presented with opportunities that last the whole year not just a one of event. Naturally, coding helps to develop your computer skills, but it also develops logic, math, problem-solving, design, music, visual arts, and more. This means that it can happen in any classroom and touch every subject area.
Another point that I would like to make is the importance of continuity, creating their own project that they are in charge of and that they themselves feel accountable for builds and nurtures learner agency. Students who have a voice and choice in their learning build an intrinsic motivation for their learning. This ownership enables students to reach their ZPD faster and more efficiently. Complex projects provide a much-needed challenge and an opportunity to build resilience into your classroom.
Importance of Plasticity
Our role in facilitating this is to provide students with skills to manage their projects. To provide feedback on their process and not to provide ready-made behavioristic coding platforms and standard answers. Therefore when teachers or students ask me about how did I do something I say:
I don't know, I just played around with it! Would you like to try?
Encouraging everyone to play and have fun. To challenge people to step outside their comfort zone and prep them to share their passions by playing with them. This brings forth something quite magical: we are way more prone to learn something new when we enjoy what we are doing.
These blogposts help me to design some of my ideas: