Tag Archives: MOOC

Helping Others Hack Learning (and Coding)

Last week (#TeachTheWeb week 4), I had an opportunity to build a new Thimble project outlining my goals for teaching coding in kindergarten. Some of you might be surprised to hear kindergarten at the end of that sentence. I’ve heard some people say it’s way too young for kids to have to learn something like coding and I’ve heard others say that there’s no way such young children can grasp the concepts.

Code in K

My response is that, like everything else in early childhood, the key comes back to developmentally appropriate practice, which involves respecting the child’s interests and curiosities as well as her or his individual abilities and limits. Luckily, more and more resources are being developed that are developmentally appropriate for young children. For many years, Scratch has been a go-to resource for educators working with young children who wanted to be makers and creators of technology (and art, stories, music, and more!). Unfortunately, Scratch is specifically built for children age eight an older, although much younger students have used it (check out these examples).

While Scratch Jr. is in the works, other developers have been working hard to create games and tools to scaffold children’s learning of computer programming logic and problem solving, the true foundation of coding (see the resources embedded here). The DevTech group is even working on a coding language that can be constructed with physical, wooden blocks and read by a camera. Once students are exposed to these (potentially literal) building blocks, they can begin to work off of that foundation and create their own programs and games.

Tangible Coding Blocks using CHER-P.
Image credit: DevTech TangibleK

I built my Thimble project to help raise awareness about the fact that resources do currently exist for young children to learn the logic of programming and the basics concepts (e.g., what is a function, how to make an object/sprite move). I also wanted to share the tools I’ve found to support this learning so that others could use them as well and my hope was to then connect with other people who are doing similar work.

Over the summer, I plan to spend more time creating plans, finding resources, and talking with others interested in introducing coding to young children. Being part of Teach the Web has also inspired me to try and create more Thimble resources and maybe even an entire Hackable Kit that others can build off of and remix to work with different ages and groups. I realized that if I want my students (and colleagues) to be creating and remixing the web, I need to be modeling that work by constantly interacting and exploring hacker tools, coding the web myself, and sharing my work openly with a larger community. 

Experimenting with Open Collaboration

In week 3 of the #TeachtheWeb MOOC, we were asked to find someone to collaborate with and create something together.  The theme for the week was the open web and that was the inspiration for our collaborative work.

I loved the guiding blog post that was written for this week because it succinctly and accessibly covered some of the most important issues around opennessdecentralization, transparency, hacakability, ownership/authorship, collaboration and  remixed derivations. Although many of these topics were ones that I had examined and discussed in both #ETMOOC and the #MediaLabCourse (openness seems to be a MOOC hot-topic!) I appreciated the focus on webmaking and looking at openness through the lenses of “technical implementation as well as the social and cultural usage of the Web.”

After Kevin posted in the G+ group asking if anyone wanted to create a comic, I join him and two other collaborators, Chad and Hayfa, in using a new tool (Bitstrips) to make something together. We slowly worked out the technical details and each took turns adding one frame of the comic and then Kevin added some closing frames (he wrote more about it here). I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn and test out a new tool. Bitstrips was pretty intuitive in terms of comic-creation (maybe a little less so in terms of collaboration) and I appreciated how many options were available to create life-like avatars and manipulate their movements.

bitstrips menu

The theme of our comic was a play on hacking the web and somewhere along the way, we also started a train metaphor. It was fun to be part of a co-created product and exciting to wait and see what the next person would add and find out how the story/comic ended. I think the project would have had a different feel if it had involved real-time collaboration but I appreciated the suspense of this approach and opportunity for us each to leave a mark individually while still being part of a larger whole. You can check out our final product below:

hack the web bitstrips comic

Next, Kevin actually created a remix of our collaborative comic. I love the idea of being able to continue building, layer upon layer, on a collaborative project. This allows each of us to learn from each other and spark innovative design/creation ideas that we might not have come up with on our own. It also reminds me of a collaborative Google Presentation that came out of #ETMOOC where people added slides about connected learning. As more and more people joined in, the slides began to get more complex and detailed as people inspired one another and led participants to realize new ways of using the tools and expressing ideas.

During the #TeachTheWeb Twitter chat this week, we talked about how transparency can motivate others to innovate and make/create. The transparency that’s possible in a shared Google Presentation, where you can see others working in real-time openly making changes and letting their work and inspiration be seen, is really motivating. This same transparency in code – the ability to use the X-Ray Goggles or other tools to see how someone created a website, has pushed me to experiment and try new tags and edits to make new web creations.

Although we didn’t have as much transparency in the making of our comic, we did have another vital component that we also discussed during the Twitter chat – a willingness to try and to fail. Without necessarily knowing the tool, the collaborators, the end-goal or product, we all responded to Kevin and said, “I want to try.” This mentality of openness goes a long way in helping to create open products and build an open web and also encourage others to join you or remix your work to make more open creations. So in the spirit of being inspired by others’ openness and an interest to continue our momentum, here’s my remix of Kevin’s remix of our collaboratively created Hack the Web Comic!

hack the web remix mpowers