I have begun the second round of computer programming training for elementary and middle school aged boys. I am somewhat experimenting by making a few of changes. The first change is location. A good friend of mine recently opened a book store. He generously made his facility available to use for the class! The store’s focus is Black/Afrocentric books, gifts and art. It is a very uplifting, positive environment. The second change is format. My friend suggested changing the class format from structured lesson plan to that of a workshop. This way parents and perspective students can get a quick, hands on introduction. If they like, they can return the following week and learn more. Lastly, I changed the day from Saturday to Sunday. Let’s see how all this works! More later.
(for info on the class, go to the Programming Class page)
Besides writing this awesome blog, what am I doing? I just finished teaching a six-week Saturday beginning computer programming class for five boys. I conducted the class in my livingroom. I’m doing it for free. Did I mention that I am not a computer programmer by profession? I make my living as a handyman. I did a little assembly language and BASIC some twenty years ago or so, but nothing current. I have an IT background, however my experience is mostly networking, systems, and PC hardware. I always wanted to learn coding, but never got around to it. Now I am becoming a Scratch and Alice expert, and working on Python! The point I’m trying to make is that we can teach what we know to those who don’t know it, and we do not have to be experts or have years of experience or a degree. Just a desire to learn and enjoy sharing knowledge, information, and inspiration with others. Is this something you can do? Please comment.
How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free | iFixit.
I am inspired by this man because he did not let lack of resources discourage him from achieving a worthy goal. He had a vision, pursued it, and discovered that there are others who also wanted him to succeed and were willing to help and provide resources. His core statement is “The lead person takes the lead through a change in consciousness, awareness and belief, not an acquisition of expertise.” He accomplished this in Oakland, CA. (article and video)
Yesterday I held my first Youth programming class for two groups of boys totalling 8. The first group is ages 8-11 and the second group ages 12-14.
For the younger group I chose to use Scratch to introduce to them the concept of coding. Scratch has a lively, colorful, and engaging interface that lends itself well to individual creativity as well as a strong on-line community via it’s website. It did not disappoint. The boys were engaged and caught on quickly. My biggest challenge was to keep my words out of the way! My introduction strategy is to teach (help them to discover) how the coding blocks function and operate by dissecting and examining the sample programs.
As for the older group, I chose the Alice 3D coding environment. Alice introduces coding by allowing youth to create their own “virtual worlds”. This program is actually used in some colleges as an intro-to-programming class for non-programmers. The boys picked it up quickly. As an instructor (guide), my challenge is to make sure they master the fundamental concepts and to maintain a challenging lesson plan while keeping it lively and fun.
This is the first in a series of Urban Science projects I plan to feature on this blog. The purpose of the Urban Science series to demonstrate how easy and affordable it is, with a little time and determination, to assemble apparatuses that demonstrate scientific principles and can potentially have practical application.
Here, a Haitian brother creates his “Haitian Alternator”, a working alternator assembled from scrap parts. Projects like this are good for “generating” interest in and de-mystifying electrical current theory. Interesting? Let me know what you think?