I have always been intimidated by computers. It wasn't until I returned to college to pursue my masters in Special Education that I began to truly use the computer for something other than e-mail or shopping. A few weeks ago in my Adaptive Tech Students with Disabilities class I first learned of coding. In the past I would immediately block out that this would be of any use to me, as it involved the computer and I teach kindergarten, way to hard for them I thought. Also I have very little self confidence in my computer skills. But during a free work time in that class I Googled it and much to my surprise the program interested me. The name of the program is Scratch Jr. and it is inspired by the the popular Scratch programming language. ScratchJr is n FREE basic computer coding app for children 5 to 7 years. Children do not even have to read to use this app. The program allows the children to snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters and other elements in their project: move, jump, talk and change size. They can even add their own voices, sounds and photos. What this app does is encourage students to explore and figure out solutions to problems and be creative! It is teaching problem-solving, perfect for kindergarten!!
I continued to read about it before downloading it to learn myself. The article that made me realize I wanted to have it and learn, was by Laura Devaney-"Coding with the Kindergarten Crowd" on www.eschoolnews.com. Ms. Devaney wrote about how this program is aligned to younger students developmental stages. She spoke about how many technologies are "digital playpens" that are safe, narrow and adult directed, there is little room for creativity or allowing the child to discover. ScratchJr. (coding) is a "digital playground" where students are the creators of their digital playground. Coding allows the student to explore and make mistakes, it creates an opportunity for learning! I love this concept as a teacher. Students, even at this very young age are starting to think like engineers: ask-imagine-plan-create-test-improve-share, the article states.
This article made me rethink about how I am intimidated by the computer and how my fears have held me back from learning. I do not want to pass that on to my students, I realized I must change the way I teach, so that they can learn what they need for their future to succeed. This January I will be introducing the ScratchJr program to my class and yes, I will be making mistakes and learning right along with my students!!!