Julie Lindsay included a great quotation from Gary Stager’s “One-to-one computing visions” presentation at NECC today in her session blog notes. The question and answer she wrote from Gary’s presentation was:
Should everyone learn programming?? Well, we all learn Haiku.
Isn’t that profound? We have such faith in the value of traditional education in the United States and elsewhere, and don’t seem to question many of the “traditions” that are practiced because they form part of our own educational experiences. Yet as reflective practicioners, questioning our educational practices and those of others is EXACTLY what we should be doing on a regular basis.
So this brings me back to programming. I had an epiphany (those don’t happen too frequently for me) at David Thornburg’s presentation at TCEA in Austin this past February. David was presenting about open source technologies using Linspire, a commercial variant of Linux. He showed a simple program using Turtle Logo, and it made me think about my own early days of computing– learning to program in BASIC. I never became a real programmer geek, but I’ve always been able to tweak a bit of code in webpages and some web applications as a result of my early introduction to programming.
I think it is essential we introduce all students to at least a bit of programming. I consider it nothing less than giving them a gift today, that may turn into an amazing cornucopia of opportunities in the future. The Internet is here to stay, and I tend to agree with much of what George Gilder wrote five years ago in “TELECOSM: How Infinite Bandwidth will Revolutionize Our World.” The changes most people alive today will see via technology and especially web-accessed content are going to knock our socks off.
So who is going to write the web of the future? Our students today will! We hear so much hoopla about STEM these days in the US: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The Texas legislature just voted in its last special session to mandate four years of math and science for all students graduating from high school, starting with the freshman class entering in 2007. But there is a huge problem with these legislative, technocratic proposals– We need to TEACH DIFFERENTLY, not just mandate “more of the same” traditional education. Look at our dropout rates nationwide! If traditional education was working so well, why are so many people saying we have a crisis? (I think the level of that crisis is being overblown, but I won’t digress on that right now.) I will observe that TECHNOLOGY and DIGITAL LITERACY are going to play increasingly important roles in the lives of everyone in the years and decades to come. And a big part of what will shape the future are the APPLICATIONS that run on the hardware and networks of the microcosm and telecosm, to use Gilder’s terms.
All students need to learn some programming. I want to start working with my own children in the coming year with Turtle Logo, but also explore Lego Robots (Lego Mindstorms.) I want to work with teachers, kids and parents in schools– here in Oklahoma and elsewhere, to promote hands-on learning with these tools. We should not let our leaders, with a straight face, tell us they want to prepare our students for the 21st century workforce by even more rigorously and heavy-handedly force feeding a traditional curriculum to them with paper and pencils! All kids need to learn some programming, and there is no time like the present to get started.
Whether it is part of the official and mandated curriculum or not, I’m convinced computer programming is part of the MORAL curriculum that we need to share with our young people. It’s a tool we need to give them, a gift we need to open together. The creative imagination is a fantastic thing to encourage, grow, and set loose– and it’s high time we did more creative thinking about complex tasks with the technology tools at our disposal in our schools and in our homes.
Do we all need to learn Haiku? Probably not. Will most of our students learn Haiku anyway? Most likely. And that is ok. But I contend we can’t stop with the traditional curriculum. Let’s move forward into the 21st century with a strong emphasis on TECHNOLOGY and DIGITAL LITERACY, not just traditional teaching and learning methods.
The digital natives are begging for us to change our ways. It’s up to us to light the torch and move together out of the cave. I think we’ll all be dazzled by how much sunlight and opportunity for growth there is out in the real world– beyond the limiting walls of the “traditional classroom.”
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On this day..
- July PD in OKC: Google Docs, iPad Media Camp & Scratch Camp - 2012
- Storychasing NASA History at Space Center Houston - 2011
- Dell Inspiron duo Convertible Tablet at the Microsoft Store - 2011
- The Marketing Slogans I'd Give AT&T - 2011
- Screentime stats for youth and the Open Learning Exchange via @fastcompany - 2010
- Quickstart guides for Posterous and iPadio - 2010
- More book recommendations about the Middle East and Islam - 2010
- iTunes Account for a Child without a Credit Card - 2009
- 21st Century Skills Our Students Need - 2008
- A Message for my School Board - 2008