Learner Profiles

Take a minute to think about what you do with technology. Do you use it to create or are you mostly a passive user? Generation Z, kids born after 1996, are so-called digital natives. They use technology to create media, and are "tremendous visual communicators" according to Dr. Pamela Rutledge of Media Psychology Center. Even as a Millennial, I am most within my comfort zone when I am using YouTube videos within my lessons. To prepare 21st century learners, however, my comfort zone is not going to cut it. This does not mean keeping up with every new social media fad or tech gadget. As with most of what we do as teachers, it is most important that we teach students how to think (in this case, like a computer scientist) and not what to think or do.

The how are generally executive functioning skills such as:
  • problem solving
  • design processes
  • flexible thinking
  • planning
The what are flexible and dependent on classroom resources:
  • technology device (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, robot)
  • specific projects
In writing, I do teach some mechanics that I consider the what (for example, I teach my students to start at the top to form letters). In coding, I also teach some mechanics (for example, I teach my students that every project must have a start symbol and a stop symbol). However, you'd be hard-pressed to find a teacher who thinks a child is a writer or can "think like a writer" just because he or she can form an upper-case letter or two.

Keeping in mind my guiding principle that coding is writing, and that my goal is for students to create through technology, I'm sharing my profiles for early coding learners (ECLs) in this post. The five attributes I'm listing give me a guidepost for what young students should be able to do with code, through instruction and project-based learning.

Attribute #1: ECLs are flexible thinkers.
Students generate original coding ideas based on their interests. They make connections between other media and their own work.

Attribute #2: ECLs are communicators.
Students use code to share their ideas and feelings with others. They choose symbols and images for meaning, voice, and clarity.

Attribute #3: ECLs are purposeful.
Students make goals and plan steps to reach those goals. They use code to explore and create in self-directed ways.

Attribute #4: ECLs are problem solvers.
Students face challenges in their coding projects with perseverance. They generate multiple ways to reach their goals.

Attribute #5: ECLs are risk takers.
Students make mistakes in their code and learn from them. They take on projects that will stretch their thinking and push their abilities.

If these sound like the types of goals that you have for your students, I encourage you to start teaching coding in your classroom. Shoelace Coding aims to give you a activities and advice to help you get started. If you think these are great goals but don't know how they'll fit with your existing curriculum or how you'll know if students are developing new skills, please check out my post on Alignment and Assessment.

Your can also purchase posters to display my Profiles of Early Coding Learners - get them now in my TpT store!

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