Why should kids learn to be digital creators, and computer programmers?
Codecraft Lab, a 501(c)3 public charity in Brevard County, FL, began working this school year with local public schools to create after-school clubs that teach students how to create with computer coding while focusing on student expression and creativity. Codecraft Lab currently works with three schools to offer 118 students in grades three through six the opportunity to learn to code using Scratch, an object-oriented, drag-and-drop, cloud-based programming tool designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group (http://scratch.mit.edu/about/). Scratch is designed specifically for children ages 8-16 and is used worldwide. Children create and program their own interactive stories, games and animations and also work collaboratively on team projects.
Codecraft Lab’s after-school Introduction to Computer Science curriculum focuses on teaching basic computer programming concepts via Scratch projects that encourage creative expression. Time constraints during a normal school day often prohibit the introduction of a tool such as Scratch that is outside the scope of the approved curriculum. Codecraft Labs have proven to be a very effective option for expanding time for production-centred, interest-driven learning that focuses on new tools. The computer labs in our schools are frequently not utilized once the school day ends at 2:30 p.m., which presents an excellent opportunity for the pursuit of student interests like this.
Students, teachers and administrators are showing great interest and enthusiasm for the projects and learning opportunities. Each school sees the value in building and maintaining a sustainable program to reach as many students as possible, and additional schools have already expressed interest in the program.
School involvement is the key to the successful spread of this program. At each school, we have the full support of the school administration. Our teacher sponsors are quintessential educators: life-long learners unafraid of tackling new curriculum and used to the challenges. Our teacher sponsors are excited to be involved even when they have no prior coding experience. Our experience has shown that teacher sponsors, once they learn of the opportunity, often spearhead the effort to bring these labs into existence.
Recruitment of volunteers to assist in the labs is also essential. For schools in more affluent areas, parents with children in the program are often interested in and able to assist. In less affluent areas, parent volunteers can be more difficult to find so a part of Codecraft Lab’s role is to recruit volunteers from colleges, universities, and local technical companies to fill these equity gaps.
Empowing student success and enthusiasm for creation over consumption with a personal inflection expressed in each digital creation is just one of the many great reasons kids should learn to be digital creators and computer programmers.
Do you think a Codecraft Lab would help your community, school, or students? Why or why not?