Guided Exploration vs Teaching

I worry that my students aren’t learning some of the basic concepts of computer science in Code Club.  It seems, sometimes, that they have big gaps in their knowledge of coding or have odd assumptions of the way the code works.

On other days, I’m amazed at their ability to explore in Scratch and their fearlessness of testing algorithms and trying new things. They want to learn how to code the most complex tasks.  They adjust their expectations of what their Sprite can do to whatever it does.

I’m finding it difficult to know what they know.  I’m looking for evidence of learning in their code and in my interactions with them, but I think I’m looking for the wrong things.

This morning I was reading Chapter 6 from Seymour Papert’s book Mindstorms. Papert talks about the difference between the way children learn and the way they are taught.  He likened learning a whole new domain of knowledge (like computer science, say) to getting to know a “new community of people. Sometimes one is overwhelmed by a bewildering array of undifferentiated faces.  Only gradually do the individual faces begin to stand out.”  (pg 137).  This requires exploration and perhaps a guide who can provide introductions.  The ability or acquisition of sensitivity to distinguish faces (or concepts) comes with time and “cannot be done by a third party. Everyone must acquire skill at getting to know and a personal style for doing it.” (pg. 137)

Perhaps this is what I’m seeing.  My Code Club students are getting to know Scratch through exploration with me as their guide. What I see as “gaps” in their skills just show they haven’t acquired the sensitivity to those concepts yet.   Meanwhile I haven’t

Well, I have to go back and finish that chapter now.



One thought on “Guided Exploration vs Teaching

  1. I can never figure out what my coding students know. Most can quote syntax but most cannot apply that syntax to an algorithm. I have cut way back on syntax and have greatly increased my algorithm development.

    Liked by 1 person

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