Saturday, November 29, 2014

Safe co-learning and learning about oneself

A few weeks ago I was asked to set up an opportunity to teach "Teaching Kids Programming" -course at a local elementary school in Finland while he was visiting. I contacted a local school, Ylä-Malmin peruskoulu, as I have my own son there on first grade and we set up a few sessions with 8th and 9th graders.

I volunteered to co-teach, but also felt somewhat of a fake. I love computers and software, but if you've ever read anything I post on my blog, I'm not a programmer. I've passed various courses on programming, even implemented occasional minor production features, but I love testing. Not checking (automatable part of testing) but testing - thinking and learning through exploring. Teaching programming, when I have high respect for people who enjoy that while I don't, it's a bit of an odd compilation. 

On the first class, I was walking around the room helping the students until I was at a point of me supposedly leading a part of that class somewhere in the middle of it. The first class was largest, loudest and had most difficulties in concentrating. I failed to get their attention and needed to give up - intimidated by the 8th graders. I could easily remember discussions with a friend of mine from high school who would become a teacher and me swearing I would never ever want to teach grades 7-9, the behaviour our teacher could expect from us back then was just this - not paying attention unless you deserved it. 

With failing once, I set out to not fail a second time, at least not the same way. I would ask to start the class, instead of jumping in in the middle. And then opting to jump out later if I felt I couldn't remember the material, as someone else's material is a very different experience than one's own. 

In retrospect, little did I know of what "co-teaching" would mean. It would mean that by Friday (3rd class), I would be co-teaching with a local teacher from the school and that by the last of four classes, Llewellyn would leave the class leaving us teaching. It also meant that the local teacher will teach more modules from Teaching Kids Programming -materials, as he was telling us he would run the course through spring semester with his computer science students. Co-teaching ended up being a great way of supporting us and enabling things to continue. 

All in all, this was a fun experience. But again the stuff happening inside my head puzzle me the most. I felt safe co-learning materials with the students. I realised again that I set my bar on "programmer" label quite high, and almost regardless of what kinds of programs I could write, as there were things I could not write, I would feel fake. I realised the bar is higher for me, and only set by me - perhaps a little by a brother of mine. 

I'm starting to feel that my year of exploring into code & programming will actually end up taking me deeper. I've found groups I'm comfortable with. I've found application areas I'm enthusiastic about (not checking!) to want to program. One thing has not changed though: I've always known it would be just a matter of choice to learn more about programming. Choice is a time-commitment though. It's always an opportunity cost - leaving out something else. 

I want to learn more together with my kids. Programming, exploring, different fun stuff we can do with technology and the wonderful application areas that I would feel particularly passionate about. Passionate enough to harness the tool of programming outside the "asking programmers do the programs" -idea that I've been working with so far, very successfully.