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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Think Positive!

Wow, Kirsten.  You certainly are taking a pessimistic view (interpretation) of this video (see Spoiler: Just Knowing how to Code won't get Kids anywhere):



I’d like to contrast yours with mine.
Spoiler: Just Knowing how to Code won’t get Kids anywhere

Saying this is like saying Gates got where he is today simply by learning how to program a tic-tac-toe game for himself – no other skill sets required.  No one is saying that just knowing how to code (nothing more) is the answer.  The point of the video is that more kids should be coding along with everything else that they are learning...big difference.
Today a video of Code.org is making the rounds on social media and various tech blogs. You see a lot of high profile tech and pop culture leaders talking about their experiences of learning how to code and how it changed their careers.

I don’t see anything inherently wrong with this approach.  I think it motivates young minds to know how these individuals began, which was not to make a lot of money but rather to help a friend or family member solve a problem, or learn the interworkings (code) of how to get a computer to do something.
The conclusion of the video is that we need to teach coding in schools and everything is going to be peachy for our kids in the future. They will work for awesome companies like Facebook, Valve, Dropbox etc have amazing offices, get free and healthy lunches and extra possibilities to spend their free time. Heck, even their clothes will be washed for them!

This is a leap for sure.  The purpose of the video is to persuade educational stakeholders (admins., students, parents, etc.) to find ways to include coding classes in K-12.  So naturally they will include some success stories (individuals and companies) that illustrate the point.  But I don’t think most will leave watching the video thinking that learning how to code in K-12 will automatically lead to similar successes.  Again, the message is that coding is used to help someone else solve problems…do we ever really have enough of these people in the workforce?
Though I agree that we need to teach more coding in schools…

Then the video has succeeded.
First of all, there is not a scarcity of coders but of software and computer engineers…

So don’t you think that they are implying that having a college degree is important,  at least in the case of Zuckerberg? To my point made earlier, the video is not suggesting that learning how to code in sixth grade will land kids a job in facebook.  If the statistic is correct – only 1 in 10 schools offer classes in coding – all they are suggesting is to start kids coding earlier.  And coding for the right reasons: helping a friend solve a problem, learning how to make the computer do something you want it to do.
Think about it. What jobs are going to be still there ten or twenty years from now? Those that cannot be replaced by computers, roboter or any other kind of automation. And guess what kind of skills are needed for those jobs? Right, soft and creative skills, the ones that are now frowned upon.

Ok, thinking, thinking, thinking…I don’t see your argument here.  Are you saying that coding does not foster the creative skills necessary for future employment?  Granted, computer languages come and go, but isn’t the skill set one that serves one much better than most other skill sets?  I think we are going to rely on software (in some form or another) for quite some time.  And even if we don't, the skill set will transfer well into other areas, I would think.
On top of that, take a look at the people who are shown in the video. They are not just code monkeys, they have other interests and skills they are able to use in their free time. Like the band that jams in the office. People who get the high paid jobs have many more skills than typing “if then else” phrases. They are foremost creative and can solve problems on their own. Facebook’s strategy is built upon small teams of creative thinkers who try out new stuff all the time.Just learning to code won’t get you there.

Remember the purpose of this short video: to persuade educational stakeholders to get kids coding earlier.  And I think the video actually implies this although it’s not the purpose of the video.
Last but not least, people are pampered this way because there is of course kind of a limited pool of highly talented people. And even if coding is a growth market at the moment, it will eventually turn into a classic lower skill job like working on the assembly line at Ford or sewering together the latest iPhone at Foxconn. It’s a simple question of supply and demand. The more people know how to code, the lower the wages and higher the working hours. No more playing ping pong or jamming with your band in the office.

Wow, another pessimistic view creeping in.  Are you really advocating that we tell kids to forget about helping others solve problems with technology because we don’t even know what kinds of jobs will be available.  And at the same time, since we don’t know what kinds of jobs will be available, that the market for coders will certainly be dried up by the time you enter the job market?  What ever happened to follow your dream!  Think big! Take chances!
To me, this is just another pointless hype (MOOC anyone?) of a generally valid idea and existing issue. But I think that what we really need to promote is to learn everything in order to become a well rounded person with enough skills to still find a job in the future. Yes, coding will be an essential part of it but don’t think it’s a magic potion.

Again, pessimistic.  So this video is pointless and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are useless?  Now you’ve just written off virtually every form of open online learning as being pointless, given the vast number of interpretations we’ve come to know about with regard to MOOCs.  This video is not advocating that the K-12 curriculum be made up of 100% coding classes.  It’s arguing that currently only 1 out of 10 schools even offer such classes, that we (educational stakeholders) should do more, and that coding classes help kids solve problems and foster critical thinking skills.  Sharing success stories is just a motivator that supports the idea that people can succeed in the business of computer programming (coding).  What’s wrong with that?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Educational Philosophy Behind Openly Publishing EFL/ESL Hangout

The following is in response to a thread regarding an open live hangout that I will be conducting tomorrow...

I understand that the idea of posting one's learning experience online can be daunting, but I will try to explain my philosophy on the matter.  I also understand that my views will not be shared by everyone.

1. I am a big proponent for open educational resources (OERs), open courseware, and the like.  I contribute to OERs continually and feel that offering an open hangout in EFL/ESL should not be restricted to those (potentially) nine individuals who join the Google+ hangout.  In fact, not making the recording available would make the live session closed to a lot of individuals.

2. I as a teacher, facilitator, and coach am subject to the same scrutiny as anyone else when publishing a hangout online.  If it's an issue of making mistakes in public, then know that I'm in the same boat as everyone else.  Having the recording available allows me as a live-long learner to reflect on past behavior with the intention of improving in the future - making me no different than anyone else.

3. My "real" job is teaching pre-service English language educators, so one thing that I advocate (not only for pre-service English language educators but in-service ones as well) is the notion of sharing experiences and opinions with each other.  So not creating a public recording of my experiences would be simply wrong.

4. Since I am investing personal resources into offering open sessions for English language learners, I feel more learners will get more out of the experience if they have a recording that they can go back to at any time for further clarification.  Also, some English language learners will only be interested in the recordings and not the live sessions.  These same learners may choose to simply interact in the YouTube comments sections, for example.

Now, although I do not plan to do much post editing, I am aware that my name is being associated with these recordings, and will not leave a video openly published that reflects badly on me or anyone else.  To clarify, making mistakes does not make one look bad, but rather makes one look human.  What I'm talking about is some major distraction that might occur during a session.  In these cases, I will use my best discretion in editing out those types of distractions that I feel interfere with the learning experience.  I'm purposefully leaving this vague as this will remain a subjective call on my part.

If anyone is uncomfortable with attending an open hangout that will be broadcast live and subsequently uploaded to YouTube, they should not attend.  But what they might be interested in doing is viewing the recording afterwards.  There is really no "wrong" way to participate, only that you do.