Tie And Jeans

I’ve been coding between classes

A few years back I tried to retool my resume into something suitable for non-edu jobs.  It was eyeopening process for me (along with interviewing for said positions).  At this point, the only real keeper from the whole experience is an appreciation for the autonomy and creativity afforded to tech people in small schools, and a big table of “Tech Skills” that lives on my current edu resume.

I’ve been making an effort to live up to that list this year, rather than only pulling out a particular if I have a specific elective or club dedicated to it.  As a result, I’ve been whipping up little Python projects to manage silly or repetitive tasks; you know, what scripting languages are for!

wrote a great post about why it’s a good idea for most people to understand the basics of programing, basically enough to participate in a conversation with a 2nd year CS student.  It’s an argument I’ve made countless times over the years, especially when pushing for elective/club opportunities for 5th-10th graders.   Now that I’m at a k-12, I’m finding there’s some reception for the idea that having pre-AP classes, building exposure and interest before the Grand Fun Killing Java Exam looms on the horizon.

Even without a goal of more kids pursuing Computer Science in HS or University, learning to code is a trans-formative act of vision, like seeing cells divide through a microscope, the Earth floating in space, a house erected from its foundation, or a souffle rise.  (I’d actually put most honest cooking in there, but a good souffle is a structural miracle.)  Huge, giant, ever-expanding  swaths of our students’ world are composed of software that somebody write.  Without some exposure to programing, we deprive them of the tools and experience to understand the basics of how those structures are made.  Just as we don’t limit biology, physics, or poetry to students who will make those subjects their life’s work, the same has to be true for programing.  Hell, maybe if we get more code into the early grades we can actually do something smart about changing math ed!

My increased work with Python has been an effort to push myself forward both as a learner and an example.  A little app that auto-picks student groups saved me the trouble of finding slips and a hat, and it gave me something to share with my colleauges.  Currently, I’m moving club signups from paper slips and tedious hours with Post-It notes to a GoogleForms + script that auto tallies every entry and makes a good “first pass” enrollment list.  None of these are perfect bits of code, by any means.  But they all help to raise the visibility of CS among my peers, and with the students.  They all help our community realize that we are not powerless consumers when it comes to tech.  We have all the tools necessary to do exactly what our school/division/class needs.

It’s not rocket science.  It’s we built these machines to do.


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2 thoughts on “I’ve been coding between classes

  1. ktenkely on said:

    I started learning to code last year in an attempt to be able to create iPod/iPhone apps for education. What a learning curve! I have never taken any sort of coding course but figured, I’m a smart girl, I’ll teach myself! A year later and with my husband’s help our first app was released (Pickin’ Stix). The process taught me a lot but most of all it reminded me what it was like to be the student. What it was like to feel totally lost and helpless and frustrated with learning. It is good for the teacher to be the student again.

  2. tieandjeans on said:

    What a neat little app! I’ve been poking at the iPhone SDK for the last week with an eye for making a better toddler toy. As you say, it’s a steep hill! The difference between the layers of UI abstraction in XCode (where I’m often moving things around, and only occasionally glancing at the underlying code) and working with Python is staggering.

    Then I go looking for tutorials and resources and find tons of them, often made by kids younger than my students! ( http://www.youtube.com/user/ipodtouchhelper09 for example. 14!)

    I often run a board game club at school, and it’s a struggle to get kids to dive into the confusion of a new game. My enduring goal for middle school is a safe haven of manageable, conquerable confusion. My nightmare scenario is 13 year olds so risk-adverse that they’ll only play games they already know.

    Thanks for being my first comment!

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