PONZI SCHEMES WORK FOR CODING!
Common slogans include “Anyone can Code” and “Everyone can Code”. But let’s face reality, not everyone wants to code. Another problem with teaching coding is the maturity, commitment and drive with the students. A High School Junior or Senior taking a coding class may have a strong drive to follow an on-line, self-paced lesson. On the other hand middle school students do not necessarily have that same drive. Some want to look tough and won’t admit they need help. Instead of asking for help they fight back and say things like “I didn’t want to take this class, but I had a missing class and I was forced to fill it.” Some of my middle school students sign up for coding because of the gaming description in the class announcement. They signed up for the class because they wanted to play games, not code games.
The maturity level of middle school students can also be a problem for concepts like paired programming. In my first year of teaching middle school I learned to hate team projects. In the team projects the good students carried the brunt of the work. With paired programming I first tried assigning teams which resulted in some strong personality conflicts. I tried letting students pick their partners. Good students paired up with other good students, lazy students paired up with other lazy students. And, oh yes, even some of my “good” students are lazy. The good but lazy students want to run through an assignment and do the bare minimum to get by. As soon as they are done I hear comments like:
“I’m done, can I play on my phone?”
“I’m done, can I play games on the computer?”
They hate my “No” answer. They hate my answer telling them to make their web page look better. They don’t like my comment to go help someone else.
“So what’ wrong with me?” I asked. I switched products, liking code.org better than the product I used last year. I have tried numerous ideas to get my students engaged.
Another problem I have been vocal about is TIME. Take U2 L8 Step 5 for an example. On a one-on-one basis, if I spend five minutes helping each student, in a class of 30 students, it would take me 150 minutes to help every student on this one step. Students are impatiently waiting for help, loose interest, and go to other web sites. It is a losing battle to keep students from wandering to other web sites if they are just sitting there waiting for help. Then the visiting other web sites becomes the norm for the class and you lost!
I visited other classes at other schools and I learned that I was not alone. Keeping all of your students focused can be an issue.
Let’s look at some real data. I gave my students one day each to do Unit 2 Lessons 3-9. I mean come on now, how hard is it to put < p > and < /p > around a sentence or two? How much time does it take? On Unit 2 Lesson 7 only 30% of my students finished the lesson, even though they had more than one day to finish the lesson. Yes I could have gone on, but in doing this I would be allowing my non-performers to fail. Paired programming wasn’t working for the non-performers. I had students complete with every lesson in Unit 2, and I had students not even started in lesson 6.
As a starter one day I asked the students to brainstorm ideas on what we could do as a class to better teach and learn the topics. One student, who liked to sit at the computer, not do her work, and talk to her partner, wrote down for me to talk less and give them more time on the computer. I didn’t say it as I thought “That is not going to happen.”
So now I’ll discuss wild idea number 13,759. I took the entire class, EVERYONE (even those that were finished) back to U2, L6 and we started going through the steps one at a time. I told the students that they were not allowed to go to the next step until everyone had finished the step. I also told them that once I checked off that step that they had to help another student that was not finished. In two of my four classes I received a comment of something like, “Do we really have to help someone?” On my first day of this approach I went home smiling. I was even happier on my second day of this approach. In one class period I went from 30% of my students complete on Lesson 7 (with almost no hope for the rest) to 100% complete on Lesson 7. On the second day I felt like I was rushing between computers to put a check mark on my tracking sheet indicating that the student had successfully completed the step.
I mentioned the Ponzi Scheme. What happened is I ended up with 1 student helping another student, then those two students helping two other students, then those four students...
I now have another change in progress which I will write about in the future.