We celebrated our one-year anniversary this weekend. It has been a very rewarding year filled with hard work and fun. Our students constantly surprise and amaze us with their abilities, curiosity, and creations. We are honored and humbled that they choose to keep returning week after week. We'll do all we can to keep bringing them new programming tools, technology, and instructional material that is challenging, interesting, and fun.
Our Saturday Starter Lab group taking a break to celebrate the occasion.
Thank you to all of our students and parents. Start Code would not be possible without each and every one of you.
I recently saw a TED talk entitled “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity”. It is one of the most widely viewed TED talks and proposes a challenging idea. Sir Ken Robinson argues that schools are educating people out of their creative capacities. He states that “education is meant to take us into a future we cannot grasp” and that only by allowing creativity to flourish in our students will they be truly prepared. While listening to his talk I kept thinking that we have an opportunity right now to inject more creativity into our kids education with computer programming.
Education is meant to take us into a future we cannot grasp.
According to Mr. Robinson, our education system was originally founded to serve the industrial revolution and that systems around the world have a similar hierarchy of subjects. Math, Languages, and the Humanities in order are at the top with Arts is at the bottom. This structure was created to prepare students for the future job force (that we cannot grasp or anticipate, remember?) and that students will inevitably be steered away from certain subjects because “you will never get a job doing that”. His concern is that students will never discover what they are truly good at because we push them often in directions that are not right for them. He says we should make education more dynamic and personalized so that students have a greater chance to discover their talents and flourish.
I would propose that programming offers a unique opportunity to rekindle creativity for many students. “What does computer programming have to do with creativity?” you may ask. Programming involves taking ideas, breaking them down, and putting them down with whatever tool you are using. It’s about taking an idea out of thin air and making it tangible (or as tangible as anything digital is). How is this creatively any different than writing a book or creating a movie for example? This is why the Scratch and Alice software teams so often refer to “creative computing”. Programming is not simply somebody sitting in front of a computer screen writing incomprehensible computer code. It instead allows creative ideas to flourish and come to life in the mind of the programmer. Plus software spans math, languages, humanities and the arts so crosses all boundaries of any education hierarchy.
At Start Code we see kids coming up with creative ideas and then taking them in many directions. They are gaining the ability to see new possibilities and new paths for their future based on their unique interests and talents. They have spent time creatively to see what software tools can do and they may see new ways of putting them together. The time spent learning was also fun and social which made it even better. This is the very dynamic and personalized learning that Sir Ken Robinson wants us to create.
There was a successful Kickstarter campaign this week for a cross-platform software development tool called LiveCode. We admit to being unaware of LiveCode up until now but two things caught our attention immediately. First was LiveCode's claim that "everyone in the world can code" because it was designed to be easy to learn and accessible by anyone. Second was that 25% of the high schools in Scotland are now teaching programming using LiveCode and enrollment is doubling. See some teacher comments in this video from the LiveCode blog. Exciting!
LiveCode was originally inspired by HyperCard for the Mac and has existed for over 10 years as a commercial company. The tool would normally cost hundreds of dollars to license even at the educational level. But the Kickstarter campaign has allowed the developers to take it open source. Anyone will be able to download and use an easy to learn cross-platform software developement tool for free! Students will be able to use it on a Windows, Mac, or Linux laptop and install it for free. This is perfect for Start Code and perfect for schools across the U.S.
Needless to say we backed the Kickstarter campaign. We supported at the level to get the High School Teacher Training webinar series. Scott will also be looking at possibly bringing LiveCode to his high school class at Academe of the Oaks. We can't wait to see the students create their first project to deploy to their iPhone, iPad, or Android phone. That will be an exciting moment! The kids will be motivated because they can make projects that will run on the platform of their choice. And with a purchase of the LiveCode commercial license they also have the option of making it a paid app! We hope to introduce it and try some projects at our upcoming summer camps. This will be a great place to try it with time to play around and see what can be done.
Congratulations to RunRev, the developers of LiveCode. They have a lot of work ahead of them but the blog posts have been fun to read and their enthusiasm shows.