Pencils can do anything: draw, shade, outline, write words or paragraphs, erase, design, tap, point, invite, compose, ask, reply, annotate, doodle, poke, or be an improvisational flag pole for a make believe fort. Pencils can be whatever you want them to be and help you accomplish just about anything, even filling in those dreaded bubble sheets.
Yesterday I watched this video:
My conclusion: Computer code is the new pencil. Yes, there are lots of big names here and lots of money behind this video, but the video accomplishes what it sets out to do. It makes me WANT one of these pencils!
I rewind decades and wonder what might have happened if I had been exposed to the possibilities of computer code as a middle schooler or even in elementary school. I was good at math and logic. I was good at writing. I chose writing over math because there just didn’t seem to be any social interaction among the people in the math building or any creative way to use it. I joked that they were all covered with chalk dust. Besides, I like creating, writing, and making things out of all kinds of stuff. So I became a teacher.
Along comes this video that says code can do anything: create arts programs, solve problems, figure stuff out, communicate or entertain. In short, code would let me make things that pull together all the stuff that I love.
So why aren’t kids — including those with a passion for things verbal-linguistic, visual-spatial, or musical-rhythmic– flocking to learn code? If code is the new pencil, why don’t we have big, chunky starter pencils and finger-friendly pencil grippers to ease us into using this new pencil? Code.org is trying to get computer code into our schools, but are they going to do it with a well-produced video?
I hate to say it out loud (for fear of offending the exceptions), but few of the code-jockeys I know
can talk and write are adept in the language of kids. They don’t make this pencil something that a mom or dad could pick up and help a five year old to grip. We don’t experience it in someone’s lap or during a story hour. Elementary school teachers don’t see code as part of essential learning. They probably never even thought about code as anything other than something their geekiest teen neighbor does. Code is hidden and scary. Teachers and parents, in turn, probably don’t suggest code as something kids might want to learn to have fun and be creative. Even the adventurous among us need pencil grippers. And no, an online code academy is not going to provide the kind of friendly experience that helps us hold and use this new pencil. Until we have face to face, human sharing the same way we share words and books, code will remain an enticing mystery at best.
Ladies and gentlemen of Codeland, sharpen your pencils. You have a new tool for us to learn, and we need some human help.