December 02 2015

What Teaching Kids To Code Taught Me About Learning.

On Monday, I taught my first kids’ coding class for Lamp Post Group. I had the privilege of talking to Girl Scouts Troop 40917 about programming and Scratch. For an hour and a half, I got to experience the curiosity and excitement these young ladies live their life with. What I realized as I was teaching is that those qualities are the most essential in learning to code- or anything for that matter.

 

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Kids are rambunctious and can have short attention spans. If they get bored, it can be a real struggle to catch their interest again. They can be a challenge to teach, at times. BUT, if you pay attention, you start to understand how their curious little brains work. You learn to appreciate how expansive their capacity to learn is.

 

Scratch is a coding language developed by MIT for kids, but it isn’t easy-breezy. As with all programming, it takes considerable problem-solving skills and tenacity to build a program. When I came into the class, I was a bit worried about my curriculum. I worried that the lesson I was trying to teach during that session was going to be too challenging for the youngsters. As the class progressed, though, we were all having so much fun that I completely forgot about the stress I was feeling. Time flew by, and I realized that we had gotten through the entire lesson and had a blast doing it. The girls were laughing and yelling out answers and questions. That may sound a bit chaotic, but it wasn’t at all. It was energizing. That’s how kids look when they’re learning. They look like they are having fun.

 

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It was an excellent reminder for myself that learning should always look like that. These girls were not self-conscious about their questions. They did a wonderful job of not comparing their skills to the students around them. They had no problem letting me know that something made no sense to them. And they celebrated audibly when they accomplished something. I always knew where each student stood and what I needed to do a better job explaining.

 

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many of us forget how to learn. Learning is associated with stress and anxiety. We see learning as a requirement, not as a joy or a privilege. It’s a means to an end, rather than the point on its own. When you see these young girls learning something as challenging as coding while maintaining a sense of fun and joy, it’s inspiring. They see the value in learning without even realizing it. When they learn something, they immediately start building upon it. Their imaginations take over and they begin exploring.

 

For example, I taught them how to build a simple game during which a cat chases a banana and eats it.  As soon as they got what I was doing, they would- without being prompted- add other characters, add sound effects, try to make the banana chase the cat and so on. They started thinking of all the cool stuff they could make and just started trying things. They weren’t afraid of failing. They saw limitless potential and went for it.

 

This motivates me to be as bold in my explorations. It reminds me that more often than not, my fears are based in self-consciousness, rather than legitimate concerns. It pushes me to have more fun in my endeavors because fun is the root of creativity.

 

This post was written by Katlyn Whittenburg, the Social Media Manager at Lamp Post Group. Stay up to date on what we are doing! Follow us on:

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