On a busy forum that I subscribe to, a forum member started a very active thread with the question “How do we teach programming in schools?”.
Although the original poster of the thread asks “How?” can we teach programming in schools, there are many responses to “What?” we should teach. Maybe rephrasing the question might have changed the responses, eg. “How can we teach children to solve problems efficiently using Computing?”
When I first trained as a Design Technology teacher in 1992, the emphasis was on teaching children to design and develop solutions to problems and then to make and test the solution they designed. In 2000 when I taught ICT, it felt more like I was teaching by instruction, eg. “Do this … to achieve this …” with very little design or problem solving at all. As I become more confident in my third phase of teaching, as Teacher of Computing I feel that my “How?” is now more about me asking myself what I want children to learn and then planning experiences in which they may learn and discover these things for themselves.
I worry that if we obsessively focus on the tools that we use, our teaching becomes, for example “Learn Python” rather than “Learn to problem solve using text based programming languages”.
I would encourage fellow Computing teachers not to worry too much about which specific tools to use, but instead to consider how they can best incorporate more of the following learning experiences into their classrooms:
Their pupils will thank them for it through demonstrating higher levels of engagement and better behaviour.
Sabotage is one example of a teaching approach that I’ve developed to help shift the focus away from learning programming for programming sake. I keep promising myself I’ll write some blog posts about the other approaches I’ve developed, though I believe it’s much more powerful to experience it yourself rather than read about it.
Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe or secret formula to successfully teach programming in schools. I believe that if the teacher feels confident in their own understanding and is not too concerned about the detail of the curriculum, as their own confidence grows they will develop their own pedagogy and methods. For even the longest journey starts with just one step.