Coding and Computational Thinking

Over the past week I’ve had a go at some very basic coding, prompted by Thing 21. From what I’ve heard around the Twittersphere and all things edtech, it’s very “in” right now! I downloaded and tried out the Swift Playgrounds app to see what all the fuss is about.

First things first, Swift Playgrounds is a beautiful app!  It was engaging right from the start and a nice simple introduction to something I found very complicated (more on that soon). I found the ‘game’ aspect of it motivating as well. Here’s a little demo of what I managed to tell my character to do.

In terms of the value of coding and computational thinking, I certainly believe it’s something our students should be doing in school. Even if they don’t go into a career which directly requires this skill, I think there are indirect lessons to be learned. From what little coding I’ve done, you are required to think logically and learn rules, then apply them. I can see this linking to things like grammar in the languages I teach, especially Latin, where you need to be able to recognise parts of a word in order to translate it correctly and make sense of what the author is trying to say.  Again, I haven’t got far enough through Swift Playgrounds to see what else I can learn, but it is a great test of thinking and something which will help our students in the future. I can recognise its value and am pleased to see it is being added to the NZC.

Learning new and different skills is also something I can see is increasingly important for our young people as we prepare them for life after school. Over the past few years as a teacher, which is a very ‘old’ profession, I have had to adapt to using new technology and conveying content in all sorts of different ways. I haven’t yet had to code something but who knows where this job will take me? 

For me, the biggest value of learning to code was in facing a different kind of challenge. I’ve always really struggled with spatial thinking and I often feel that my brain doesn’t “work” that way – left and right are really tricky concepts for me to recognise and apply! Trying to manoeuvre my character around its little world, as you can understand, didn’t come naturally to me and there were times when I got fed up and abandoned the app. It was therefore a good test to take a break, then come back, think about it again and work through that frustration to solve the puzzle. It’s now the end of term and the beginning of summer holidays, so hopefully I can make some progress in between napping and prepping for next year…

On a side note, I’ve skimmed over the previous Thing on ePortfolios; I’m treating my blog as a public portfolio and use Interlead as a private professional portfolio, shared with a few colleagues. I’ve engaged with the resources but just haven’t created anything new!