Tag Archives: computer

Coding literacy

Here’s something I’ve been hearing about and ignoring. Coding sounds too much like maths to me, and I was never good at that. But it’s not about me, I keep having to remind myself. It’s not about what I’m comfortable with, what I’m drawn to. Knowing how to code is going to be something really big in the life of our students. I don’t even know if our school is teaching this; I should really find out. Take a look at this video from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU1xS07N-FA&w=560&h=315]

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are teaching coding online here. Reluctantly I’ve signed up just to see what the course is like for coding luddites like me. I’ve read a little about the role of schools in teaching kids these skills but haven’t delved any deeper until now. Darcy Moore’s article on ABC Splash caught my attention in my Facebook feed this morning. The fact that students are seeking out these free online learning opportunities outside school underlines the need for schools to revise what is worth including in the curriculum. School is no longer the only place to learn, and this is becoming more and more evident. Although it’s not a bad thing for learning to take place outside school, it does beg the question: are schools as relevant as they could be?

The Starter League is another place to go if you want to learn to code and design on the web. Thanks for the article, Darcy, it’s given me something to think about.


Siftables – the toy blocks that think


David Merrill is the creative inventor of Siftables, small computer blocks that interact with each other, offering a myriad of learning possibilities using physical manipulation and play.

I’m so inspired by people like David, and by the way he talks just as much as what he does. His passionate explanation of his new discovery reveals  creative and innovative thinking. He says “I started to wonder… what if…?” And that’s the point where you  know something great is going to happen. ‘What if…?’ is something I think we should do more often.

So he thinks ‘What if, when we use computers, instead of having a single mouse cursor, we could reach with both hands and grasp information physically, arranging it the way we wanted it?’

David’s idea came from watching kids play with blocks, and understanding that through this physical play they were learning how to think and solve problems by understanding and manipulating spatial relationships.  He argues that spatial reasoning is deeply linked with how we understand the world around us.

From this idea, David, the computer scientist, came up with a concept and developed a new tool – Siftables; you could grab information physically and arrange it the way you wanted to. Siftables, according to David, are an example of a new ecosystem of tools for manipulating information, for exploring new and fun interaction styles. The blocks are somehow aware of each other, aware of the nuances of how we move them, and respond accordingly. The examples he showed were language and maths games, as well as musical composition, but he hinted that there were many more applications.

The game aspect is appealing. As David says, you don’t have to give kids many instructions – they work it out for themselves by playing around with the blocks. Discovery.

The music was my favourite example, and I immediately wanted to have a go.  The Siftables enabled you to inject sounds into a sequence that you could assemble into the pattern you wanted.

David says, ‘My passion is to make new human computer interfaces that are a better match to ways our brains and bodies work… we are on the cusp of a new generation of tools for interacting with digital media that is going to bring information into our world on our terms.’

A powerful statement.

I like the way he’s thinking about matching digital tools with our brains AND bodies. I often think about how traditional education, with its expectation that students sit still and listen for prolonged periods of time, or work on teacher-prescribed work which focuses on text, doesn’t match the way adolescents function, and definitely doesn’t take into account their need for physical activity.

Siftables may have been created for young children but I think there is much potential for adolescents too. This is an excellent example to underline something I’ve been saying for a while: technology is not an end in itself. Technological tools are just tools, but they can enhance learning, and with the learner in mind, and particularly with the learning aims in mind, they can enable creative and innovative activity.

 Thanks to @marciamarcia for this link.