Memorable learning moment (#peel21st Nov 2015 blog hop)

A grade six teacher and I had co-planned a series of sessions with her students around coding with Scratch. In one of the later sessions, I was working with a boy who was frustrated with the game he was making and told me he wanted to start over again.  In age appropriate words, I reassured him that programming involved working in a continuous state of problem solving. In fact, fixing coding errors in programming has a special word: debugging.

Scratch "Game challenge"
An example maze game in Scratch.

I pointed out that it appeared to me that his code was progressing quite well. He accepted my offer to help him. I modeled the problem solving process of isolating chunks of code that might be causing the error. Akin to breaking a complex problem into more manageable parts, this strategy helped him fix his code because he was able to test his code bit by bit rather than all at once. Because he could now pinpoint where each problem was, it became far easier to see what the problem was.

At the time, I felt he was operating with a fixed mindset, at least initially. Without doing the actual work of solving his problems for him, my goal was to talk out loud, using growth mindset language, and model some strategies that might work.

There were three bugs in his code and he fixed each one by isolating the problem and stepping through his instructions one by one. I wasn’t surprised that he became very enthusiastic and confident about his program. What did surprise me, though, was how effective it was to simply alter my language so that it consistently reflected growth mindset thinking.



Check out these other blog posts in our first #peel21st blog hop of 2015-2016:


19 thoughts on “Memorable learning moment (#peel21st Nov 2015 blog hop)

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  1. This sounds like a great experience. I’ve heard so much about coding in the last little while, that I’m becoming intrigued about it. As an English teacher in high school, this doesn’t seem like a logical spot to use coding, but maybe there’s a way to do it with the students and co-learn with them.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Coding is very versatile these days. In fact, I would say that every Scratch project is also a media text because it is constructed and shared within a community and with an audience in mind.

    2. Amit, I think you would like Mitch Resnick TED talk on coding as he equates coding to learning a language and it’s patterns.

      I really liked your point Jim about the power of language in our learning journeys.

      1. Thanks for your comment, Tina! I second Tina’s Mitch Resnick recommendation. It’s like he speaks from the inside of the learning we are hoping to achieve rather than commenting on it from the outside. Can’t really explain it but he is always on target!

  2. Thanks for sharing Jim. The working through a ‘bug’ in the code is what can make or break a students first experience with coding. If they get frustrated and become overwhelmed then I can understand the wanting to start over response. As one of my students shared a game they created in Scratch at home to the class I could see the level of nervousness about not understanding creep in. After the student showed a similar code to start off, you could see the classes enthusiasm return.

    1. Fair enough, Jason. I agree that it is crucial to coach students in attitude and model ways to attack bugs and complex problems. That ingredient is often not to be found in published expositions and hyperbole about coding in education (at least, at this point in time) with, of course, a few exceptions (Seymour Papert being one of them, unsurprisingly).

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, it was definitely a make or break moment for the student; I certainly felt the pressure when I was in the moment to support and encourage him in a way that would work on both an emotional and cognitive level…

  3. I love coding. It’s interesting to watch students when something they try doesn’t work. There are those that delete everything in a moment of frustration and start over while others can step through their code and figure out find their bugs. Debugging is a skill and a mindset, for sure.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Erica! Yes, and I think teachers (and fellow student coders) play a crucial role as a coach, co-thinker, and concept connector… I wish more was discussed about those roles and less was discussed about how coding is some 21st century educational panacea.

      1. I think as more people actually delve into coding (and more than just an hour), we’ll start to see these conversations more and more. It does feel a bit like a “shiny new toy” right now (though learning to code in school is not new at all!).

        I like your wording of “concept connector” – I often find myself demonstrating nested loops and you just see that “ah ha” moment happening in students’ eyes and they often say, “I didn’t think you could do that!” (because no one had specifically said to do it or taught that). And then there are other students that are natural tinkerers and explorers that try everything and figure things out.

        I see this with not just coding but troubleshooting with tech in general. Some students seem to have that mental flowchart of what to try, what resources to access, etc. I’m still trying to figure out how to develop this in all students.

      2. Loved you comment! I see the best learning taking place when students self organize themselves into learning groups or partners. Every bit of learning is authentic, ‘just-in-time’ and relevant to what they are doing. And teachers can certainly play a part there by modeling thinking and encouraging the establishment of these learning partnerships.

  4. Love the game Jim. Let me know what other activities you are doing in six would love to see them. I also have a bunch that I have been working on that you can try.

    Coding a pattern app; 24 hour clock app; makeymakey and music. Also it is the growth mind-set that we need to have for our children and students. Something that is needed as I think we and they often give up too easily.

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