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Posts tagged ‘coding’

3
May

Let’s Not Start from Scratch: Some Early Research on ‘Coding’

Last week, I tweeted, “When you’re teaching coding to students, research the cognitive challenges kids & teachers had in 80s & implement from there. #PriorKnowledge

This has arisen from the frustration that many today are not not aware of the challenges and opportunities that were experienced—and researched!—on the first wave of children programming in schools during the 1980s.

…let’s pick up where we left off…

It’s great to be excited about ‘coding’ these days, but it would be even more exciting if educators were to pick up where we left off. With the background knowledge of the research on programming: the problems, the misconceptions students face, the common (novice) errors, the questions, and so forth—educators could start at a higher point and move forward more efficiently. This would not be too different from gathering background knowledge in any profession—rather than inventing and discovering all from ‘scratch’ (so to speak)!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the discovery approach, but within reason.

I was asked if I had any digital resources on this. So I decided to put a few of the old research pieces together in this post. It is by no means a comprehensive list! It does not address the totality of research from that era—nor the research in more recent years. But, it will give you a taste of our dreams and challenges from that period.

In here, you will see David Perkins—who, of course, leads Project Zero at Harvard and has a long history of cognitive research.

You will also see my old friend, Gavriel Salomon (Gabi) whose work I have frequently referenced in this blog. He left us last year and is sorely missed. (We had some fun at a conference he organized in Israel in 1986. As I was giving a keynote presentation, one of the audience members disagreed with a point I made and spoke out loudly. I was rather taken aback, as my Canadian sensibilities and customs were different. Before I had a chance to respond, Gabi jumped into it, and took up the challenge! I could only giggle.)

Conditions of Learning in Novice Programmers

  1. N. PerkinsChris HancockRenee HobbsFay MartinRebecca Simmons

Vol 2, Issue 1, 1986

Under normal instructional circumstances, some youngsters learn programming in BASIC or LOGO much better than others. Clinical investigations of novice programmers suggest that this happens in part because different students bring different patterns of learning to the programming context.

Many students:

  • disengage from the task whenever trouble occurs,
  • neglect to track closely what their programs do by reading back the code as they write it,
  • try to repair buggy programs by haphazardly tinkering with the code, or
  • have difficulty breaking problems down into parts suitable for separate chunks of code.

Such problems interfere with students making the best of their own learning capabilities: students often invent programming plans that go beyond what they have been taught directly. Instruction designed to foster better learning practices could help students to acquire a repertoire of programming skills, perhaps with spinoffs having to do with “learning to learn.”

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2190/GUJT-JCBJ-Q6QU-Q9PL

Spaghetti vs Ravioli

The chunking of code, was one challenge I faced with kids in the 80s. They used to write long strings and just add a command, try it, add another, and so on. We ended up calling that ‘spaghetti’ code. We talked about making ‘ravioli’ instead! 😉 Chunk it into meaningful pieces!

turtleAfterbugs – Tiptoeing Back through their Thinking

The issue of giving up on errors, or bugs, I dealt with playfully. I wanted them to tiptoe back through their thinking. It became something delightful for them to seek bugs. Read how—here.

 

The Fingertip Effect: How Information-Processing Technology Shapes Thinking

  1. N. PERKINS

Vol 14, Issue 7, 1985

Abstract

“Contemporary beliefs about the impact of information-processing technology (IPT) on thinking are examined. Whereas some suggest that learning to program and other contacts with IPT will empower thinking, it is argued from both theory and evidence that typical contacts with IPT today do not meet certain conditions for significantly reshaping thought. Whereas others suggest that IPT will have a narrowing and dehumanizing influence, it is argued that the striking diversification of IPT now underway will eventually allow for many styles of involvement. In the long term, as this diversification spreads to nearly all aspects of society, thinking may change in certain basic ways as it has in response to literacy and print.”

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X014007011

Transfer of Cognitive Skills from Programming: When and How?

Gavriel SalomonD. N. Perkins

Vol 3, Issue 2, 1987

Abstract

“Investigations of the impact of programming instruction on cognitive skills have yielded occasional positive and many negative findings. To interpret the mixed results, we describe two distinct mechanisms of transfer–“low road” transfer, resulting from extensive practice and automatization, and “high road” transfer, resulting from mindful generalization. High road transfer seems implicated where positive impacts of programming have been found; insufficient practice and little provocation of mindful abstraction are characteristic of investigations not demonstrating transfer. Our discussion affirms that programming instruction can improve cognitive skills under the right conditions, but cautions that implementing such conditions on a wide scale may be difficult and that programming instruction must compete with other means of improving cognitive skills.”

Implications for Deeper Learning

I have written extensively about this issue of transfer—in this context of coding. There are great challenges associated with it. So the questions remain—how do you support it in your classrooms?

Read some thoughts about cognitive residue—this issue of transfer here and indeed here.

The Final Report of the Brookline Logo Project: Part ll

Seymour Papert, Daniel Watt, Andrea diSessa, Sylvia Weir

ftp://publications.ai.mit.edu/ai-publications/pdf/AIM-545.pdf

 

Research on Logo: A decade of Process

Douglas Clements  

“Depending on the environment in which it is embedded, Logo can constitute a trivial enterprise or a variegated educational experience. We claim that few educational environments have shown as consistent benefits of such a wide scope from the development of academic knowledge and cognitive processes to the facilitation of positive social and emotional climates. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, realizing these multifarious benefits does not imply lack of focus: Integration into one or more subject matter areas maximizes positive effects.  A critical factor, however, is a clear and elaborated vision of the goals of Logo experience shared among administrators, curriculum developers, teachers, and students. Such a vision provides a gyroscope that guides the myriad activities of educators: administration, curriculum development, lesson guidance, and moment-by-moment interactions with students.”

https://www.academia.edu/6910525/Research_on_Logo_A_decade_of_progress

So, as Seymour Papert said, “If the role of the computer is so slight that the rest can be kept constant, it will also be too slight for much to come of it.” This from this wonderful 1987 Papert paper called Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking.

In Summary

I applaud and welcome the enthusiasm of educators who are implementing programming (coding) with students. My hope for is that we will all take the time to visit, or revisit, some of the significant findings of the past—so that we are better prepared to to move our students to deeper learning.

 

 

 

 

12
Apr

What is Deep Learning Anyway?

The terms ‘deep learning’ and ‘deeper learning’ are de rigueur these days.

Watch the video for some clarification! 🙂

  • Deep learning is a term that has morphed over the years.
  • One of the main aspects of deeper learning is that of transfer…perhaps of a ‘mental model’ to another scenario (to another domain for example)
  • The idea of near transfer and far transfer have been around for a long time
  • Design environments to cultivate deeper learning.
    • I set up an online, collaborative, journal writing environment for students—actually back in the late 80s 😉
  • Each, and every, student has a responsibility to ‘kick it up a notch’ for themselves and for others
  • Metaphoria is a game I play with kids that helps them to create mental models with which to think
  • Make transfer explicit for your students
  • “Specialization is for insects.” We have segregated subjects into ‘subject areas’. This is a human invention. The problems of the world today require an integrated, holistic solution.

The video is from the learning exchange—a site of the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education. It was recorded at The Quest 2016 conference – Deep Learning in a Digital World.

1
Dec

Pedagogy before Technology: Not a New Thing

unacceptable

Don’t say, “We are finally paying attention to the pedagogy!”

It is unacceptable.

Pedagogy is why we started so many years ago!

How many times do we hear the following these days?

“It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning.”

“We have to think about pedagogy instead of focusing on the tools.”

But the most disturbing claim suggests that ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology—that everyone in the 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s paid attention only to the hardware, the software and ‘teaching the tools’—devoid of pedagogy.

…ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology

quiet-150406_1280Please don’t say that. It’s absolutely incorrect—and, in fairness, rather hurtful to many who have had dreams of the kinds of things we are hearing more widely today. We have fought, and fought hard, for effective uptake through those decades in the face of those who ignored, and dismissed, us as outliers.

…some veteran, and influential, educators ignored us in the past…

And, it is not only some who are new to education who are guilty of this. We are seeing some veteran, and influential, educators who ignored us in the past, now moving us all forward with discussions of new pedagogies.

How we wished for their voices three decades ago. Imagine where we might be now.

Build Upon the Past

However, now we have a new generation of educators who, in many cases, have embraced the affordances of technologies. We welcome your enthusiasm, your energy and your building of effective classrooms for our learners.

…we must build upon that which has been done in the past

questions-1328465_1920I believe that it is important that we must build upon that which has been done in the past and move forward from there. If we start fresh—as if it is all new—we are not leveraging the successes and failures of previous times. We must learn from our experience.

To do this, one needs to know the history of educational computing.

I will share some of my experiences and observations having started on this journey in 1977.

This will require a series of posts. 🙂

A Series of Posts

I could do this by topic—coding, global projects, inquiry, science and math investigations, leveraging productivity software for inquiry, and so on. Or I could do it chronologically—which is the way I shall choose to approach this very rich history.

Logo Maze Poster(sm)Over this series of posts, you will read about:

  • Developing thinking and metacognitive skills through programming (coding) with grade ones in 1977, the Logo movement of the 80s, programming in HyperCard and HyperStudio in the 80s and 90s, teaching kids HTML through the 90s
  • Connecting kids through global projects in the early 80s with a command line interface on our computers, a Day in the Life project run with the Soviet Union via fax machines, National Geographic Kids’ Network collaborative science investigations in the 80s with teams of students from around the world, Global Schoolnet, FrEdWriter and FrEdMail (free wordpro and email networking for kids in the mid-80s), iEARN (International Education and Resource Network)
  • Being mathematicians, scientists, and engineers through building robotics and making in the mid-80s with Lego TC Logo robotics kits
  • collaboration – in addition to the collaborative global projects mentioned above, we had the development of CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments) in the mid-eighties; ThinkingLand (late 80s), and Journal Zone (early 2000s). These were environments focused on creating knowledge building communities in our classrooms
  • Inquiry-based uses of productivity software (mid-80s onward)—using drawing tools, databases and spreadsheets for mathematics & science inquiry of geometry, speed, acceleration, etc.
  • Exploring, tinkering and creating in Virtual Reality (Mandala and CitySpace) in the 90s
  • Multimedia creation (HyperCard, HyperStudio, Web Creation, desktop publishing, Laser discs)
  • Beginning in 1982, we deliberately focused our formalized professional learning on curricular implementation by including curriculum and/or pedagogy in the workshop titles (Math Investigations using Spreadsheets; Planning Ahead with Outliners; Metacognition and Programming in Logo)

This is just a sampling of topics.

girl-and-hammerNext Post: Pedagogical Stance of the 1970s: Piaget In! Skinner Out!

The next post will tell the story of how—and why—we got involved with microcomputers in the late 1970s. It will include a description of the educational context of the 1970s—the student-centred, inquiry-based, open-classroom, student-in-charge environments where we were believers in a Piagetian constructivist approach and had dismissed the Skinnerian behaviourist, operant-conditioning principles of earlier decades.