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Ben Chun
May 16 2012

Teaching Programming in Every Subject


Thanks to Erin Wilkey Oh for inviting me to cross-post this from my blog.

DML 2012, March 4, 2012

I gave an Ignite talk (20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds = 5 minutes total) yesterday at DML 2012. My topic was “Teaching Programming in Every Subject” which was on one level about cross-curricular integration, and on another level about how programming is a great model for how to work on any problem. Just now, I realized that Jasper Johns also knew the secret:

Do Something

He was talking about how to make art, and I think the advice pretty much applies to anything. But Papert is the one that I give credit to nailing down the connection between programming and an iterative approach to learning. In my talk I quoted from his book Mindstorms:

“[M]any children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you have either “got it” or “got it wrong”. But when you learn to program a computer you almost never get it right the first time. Learning to be a master programmer is learning to become highly skilled at isolating and correcting “bugs”.”

I’ve written and talked about the significance of this connection before. And I wasn’t the only Papert fan in the house: both Rafi Santo and Henry Jenkins referenced him in their Ignite talks as well. All of which lead to the following observation (via Twitter):

I think videos of our talks will eventually be posted [update: now posted], but for the time being here are examples of student work on the three projects I discussed:

1. Shakespeare vernacular translations and stage directions, with recorded dialog
2. Regular polygon drawing
3. Age of Exploration Adventure-style games, and the assignment details

I’d love to find more creative approaches and projects for teaching CS and other subjects at the same time!


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<p>Thanks for posting your Ignite talk, and especially for linking to the student work. This are cery interesting applications of Scratch to specific content areas. For those of us trying to teach ourselves a bit of coding, I've been seeing more and more online opportunities to learn and practice. For example, just saw <a href="http://codingbat.com/">Coding Bat, a little practice coding site for Java</a>.</p> <p>If you have an interest in making a resource or a collection about coding, perhaps pointing folks to your curated set of great learning opportunities, please plunge in!</p>