Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Projects and Recipes in Computer Science Classes

Chris Lehmann is principal of the Science Leadership Academy. “SLA is an inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on 21st century learning “ So when I read something like this from him it makes me think.


A lot of students are used to recipes. They expect step by step instruction on how to do something. In fact many of them are too used to it. They expect that for every assignment. Now I do use recipes from time to time. Both in class and in cooking.

A cooking recipe is safe. It is a way to get something the same every time. Not it not bad but it’s not especially creative. The real interesting things happen when one diverts from the recipe. You add an extra spice, try a recipe for chicken with fish or leave something out. In short the fun happens when you make it your own.

The same thing happens with recipes in computing. A class full of students can follow a recipe and all get the same result. They may even learn something. Chances are it will not stick very long though. A project is a lot more personal and students get a lot more invested in their learning when the project is something of their own.

Projects force students to think. Good projects force them to go beyond what is covered in class. They force students to get creative. I think they are wonderful learning tools. Recipes have their place and I wouldn’t suggest getting rid of them completely. Moderation in all things though. Smile  The important thing is to know what you are using, why you are using it, and what you expect from it. So let’s not confuse recipes and projects.

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