The students in my Year 10 English class are encouraged to pursue one of their passions as a Personal Interest Project (PIP). Over the years I have found that many students find it challenging to generate their own project. School is usually about doing what someone else gives you rather than a free choice of content and approach.
This particular group is an all boys class of volunteers. They nominated themselves as there are more opportunities to use technology in this English class than usual. With this in mind, I suggested a range of possible ideas for a PIP including website-building, blogging, video-making, machinima or writing a (graphic) novel. I emphasise that students will need to reflect about their project and share skills, collaborating to help each other produce their products. Often we explore an individual’s initial ideas and open a dialogue about the processes that will possibly assist production. Sometimes we all explore an idea in a lesson and work on it together. For example, one boy has a GoPro and wants to use it for video footage at his ‘surf & skate’ blog while another wants to make a videoclip for his original music. It is a great way to reward a hard-working student who completes set tasks with the opportunity to focus on their PIP or assist a peer.
This year there are many boys who are enthusiastic about coding but only one who already has skills in this area. Several have repeatedly asked me if they could learn how to code. I usually respond with jump online at home and just do it. However, it made sense to pursue, initially in a teacher-directed manner, this interest with the whole class to see how many would respond positively to the challenge of coding. We watched the video below and briefly discussed the message about schools disseminated via code.org.
The boys then joined Code Academy knowing that there are a wide-range of courses to complete. Some students in the class are not much interested in learning to code but agreed that an hour exploring how the tutorials worked was fair enough. I sat back and watched. Some struggled but persisted as their buddy explained how to do it. I had the students polled at the end of the lesson and 65% “loved’ learning to code and wanted more.
The next lesson some students came into class and just continued on with ‘Code Academy’. I was happy to let them do it while the rest worked on their blogs, read or completed set work they had missed earlier in the week. Students continued to assist each other when stuck. One person asked me for assistance but before I could help another students had already said, “I know how to do that, sir” and sorted out the syntax for him. Class Dojo is ‘pinging’ often at the moment.
The English syllabus certainly provides great flexibility re: content and approach. The students in this class are likely to make more progress with choice about what they study. I look forward to seeing the uses they make of any coding skills gained in coming months.
Are students coding at your school?