For the last year and a half I have been back in the classroom as a full-time teacher. It’s a lot of fun working with the students. It’s been a bit eye-opening though about what young people can and cannot do with computers. They are not the wizards that so many people seem to think they are. Digital natives? Not hardly.
Oh they can find and play games. But doing productive work? Not as much. Even things us oldsters take for granted like moving files, creating and navigating through folders can be new to more students than you might think. They don’t experiment as much as you’d think either. We’ve largely raised a generation that wants step by step instructions for everything. Well except for games. Why they expect to have to figure out games but have everything else explained I don’t know.
And of course we all know that boys are the experts and girls are not. Ha! I see girls helping boys out with things like Word and Excel more than the other way around. In my programming classes girls seldom go to boys for help if there is a girl in the class they can ask. Boys ask boys mostly but seem more than willing to ask a girl for help. It seems like the girls are better at a little skill called “paying attention.” Imagine that.
Also girls and boys are both interested in programming if you give them projects that are interesting to them. The boys may like games better but not always. The girls like projects that manipulate or create images. Girls seem to get very creative when I introduce programming for the first time using turtle graphics in TouchDevelop for example. Boys like it as well though. Stereotypes don’t work well with teens. They work less well with pre-teens by the way.
Both middle school boys and girls love using programming techniques to tell stories. (My wife does a lot of that in her middle school.)
I’m more and more convinced that projects that give students a chance to be creative are the best ones for learning. Sometimes it takes a bit to push them away from the idea of having everything spelled out with cookie cutter ideas of write and wrong for results though. It’s like we have to reteach a bit of creativity that I know they had as pre-schoolers and in the early grades. It sure is worth it though.
Kids are still smart. Kids are still creative. You should hear their creative interpretations of rules! Taking advantage of the creativity lets them exercise the “smarts” more. And then the fun really begins for everyone!