After many, many years I stepped into as school. This year I volunteered to help with outreach activities, to introduce school kids to Computer Science, and this was my first foray – not that I did any talking, just went to observe.
It was *fantastic*. Nothing like the energy and vibe coming from a bunch of pre-teens. There were around 20 kids, all learning how to use Scratch to develop a simple game. I really expected them to be totally lost, but in fact they were on top of it all and seemed to be programming at the same pace that they were being taught. What was most refreshing was that as soon as the teacher asked some question to the group several hands would go up by students all eager to answer. (It leaves me wondering – when and why do students loose this exuberance on their way to University?)
Much of the credit must go to the teacher Mandeep and to the special instructor Ashley Brown, who are preparing the students for an exciting project on Creative Coding. I look forward to following this project and visiting the resulting Digital Art installation. I’ll post about this when I learn more about how the project is going.
I already knew about Scratch, of course, and have recommended it not only to kids but also older students who struggle with getting to grips with programming. What I didn’t know about was Makey-Makey, which adds a very fun way of interacting with processing. When I saw bananas and PlayDo being distributed I had no idea what was going on, until I saw that these objects can provide a cool alternative to keyboards – and thus break down barriers to computing. This video seems to provide a good introduction to these devices:
It’s been really exciting going back to school, and I look forward to visiting them again, and to activities where I get to talk to young, bright minds and explain how Computer Science can go beyond games programming and help us both understand and change society and the environment we live in.