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Action Plan: Python

Action Plan: Python

“[My hobby] is something I can do in my spare time, be creative and write and not have to be graded,” because, “you know how in school you’re creative, but you’re doing it for a grade so it doesn’t really count?”[ LINK ]

What is the purpose of school? What is the purpose of a teacher? There are many ways of answering those questions: love of learning, problem solving, understanding the world, preparing for the future, learning more about ourselves, etc. However, it is not to get a grade.

For this week’s entry, I have been tasked with creating my own goal that can help me to empathize with my learners in my school. When we empathize, we start to learn the problem at hand– Mizuko Ito tells us volumes in her video about connected learning– and if I am to empathize with my students, this graph gives some insight into what the students might be feeling.

[ LINK ]

When I look at this graph from Ito’s presentation, it tells me that students are feeling increasingly disengaged as they proceed through their schooling. Full stop.

If I am to add a certain level of inference, I could say that the premium placed on grades gets higher, learning through play becomes more scarce, specialized information that is not necessarily student-interest driven becomes more prevalent, and quite frankly, the classroom experience in high school tends to mirror more traditional practice.

There are a host of problems, but at the end of the day, empathizing with students is about feeling. Hey, I’ve been there. School felt the most meaningless to me in high school. It was so meaningless that I graduated a year early so that I could move onto university and focus on something relevant at 17 years old. But I’ma 35 year old man who is in a position where I might not necessarily appreciate how students feel.

That’s why I’ve decided to put myself in the shoes of the learner. To help me empathize with this feeling of passion, interest, and self-driven education (Groß’s TED Talk), I decided to get better at coding. I hope that by actively pursuing my passion project to hit that 20 hour mark (Kaufman’s TED Talk), I will be able to model for my students how to be a self-driven, connected learner.

[ LINK ]

Coding is a huge subject. It’s like saying “I’m going to learn LANGUAGE.” Yeah, uh, so which language? I’ve got a bit of Python, HTML, and CSS under my belt. I’m also fairly proficient with spreadsheets which uses a similar computational thinking. However, I haven’t used Python for some time, so I feel that it would be a good place to start. So I bit the bullet and bought a book.

My action plan

  1. Identify goal and buy a resource.
  2. Place the book on my work desk. This might sound small, but it’s a daily visual reminder of my commitment.
  3. I will complete at least 1 chapter a week. That will make this approximately a 3 month goal with 12 chapters.
  4. Reach out to my DT/CS colleagues at work and online who are fluent in Python who can be my experts as I work through the chapters and hopefully be able to receive feedback.
  5. Share my progress to help me celebrate my small milestones.
  6. Finally, in terms of my practice, I think I have to really think about why I’m doing this. I opened this entry with the idea that learning should be about passion, curiosity, and a love of learning. We don’t go to school to get an A. We go to school to engage with the world, do meaningful things and interact with others who can help get us there. That’s why my 6th goal is to stop placing a premium on grades. Rather, I will start placing a premium on getting to know my students so that I can help them find their authentic inquiry questions.

2 Comments

  • Alex, I tip my hat to you! I think it is great to put yourself out there about learning something new. I have written on Twitter about why it is so important for educators to be continual learners; to put ourselves in our students shoes so that we can feel frustrated and successful. So that we can experience the same journey as our students do in our classrooms.

    When I moved into my role this year in Brazil, I was not expecting to end up back in the classroom, but that is exactly what has happened. Due to some scheduling issues, I am not sharing a coding class with a great teacher. You would think being the IT and Innovation Director that I know everything about coding, but I don’t, so much like you, I have had to pick up some material, and hold myself accountable to learn, well at least stay ahead of the kids 🙂
    But seriously, I think this experience makes me a better teacher in the classroom, because I can relate to their emotional experience with the course content.

    Finally, I love your last step in the action plan. Over the past week, I participated in a couple of Twitter Chats, and while I don’t quite remember the hashtags of either, #toomanyhashtags, I recall in both, speaking to why relationships trump everything else. Once you have those with students, then the learning can be propelled even further. Good luck with Python, and please give us an update!

  • Did you know… Guido van Rossum named his programming language Python, because of his love of Monty Python? I found this out after a student asked me why would someone name a programming language after a snake – dumbfounded, I set about my quest to find out why.

    Coding is still by far the most difficult computing thing, by a very long distance, that I have ever learned; and I have learned quite a few back in the day including, and in order of when I started learning them; Pascal, COBOL (not the happiest time in my life), SQL, Java, Prolog, PHP and finally C+ (at which point I was scarred for life).

    I love and loathe coding. It is fantastic when you get your first program to run, but it is equally terrible when you have run out of solutions to your final year project in university, when you cannot find why your program won’t run; apparently it was down to a misplaced semi colon.

    I think when too much emphasis is put on grades at school, it can suck all the fun out of learning and put too much pressure on our students. There is a balance to be found, and I am fortunate to have taught at two schools where the focus is on learning. And, as you say, by putting yourself in the shoes of the learner, can help you emphasise with them. Check out this frightening magnificent quote by Carl R Rodgers; “Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourself.” This is particulary true when trying to help out your students to debug their code!

    May I recommend the book “Learn Python The Hard Way”. I used this and found it a great resource – I even based my lessons on a lot of the contents.

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