by Alessandro Bogliolo, University of Urbino, Italy
What is happening in these last months is unprecedented in my experience and I have the privilege of being at the centre of where things are happening. This is what: I’m promoting and directing a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Coding called “Coding in Your Classroom, Now!” hosted on EMMA, the European Multiple MOOC Aggregator.
This MOOC is available for all teachers – from primary school to university – and it doesn’t require any previous experience or expertise in information science. The main objective is to support teachers in finding their own way of introducing computational thinking in their classes, without necessarily following a standard. The teaching materials are produced during the course, in real time, and they remain available on demand throughout the duration of the course.
Teachers get assignments, which require that they involve their students, and this creates two parallel learning communities, the original one made up of the teachers themselves, and a wider one, made up of their students. The size of these two communities is the most striking feature of this experience: more than 6.200 enrolments in the course with over 100,000 kids in their classes.
Two-thirds of the learners had no specific expertise whatsoever and only 41% of them teach in the STEM area. The visual programming is an involving and gratifying experience, in that it enables you to be immediately productive and to quickly grasp the basics of a technology that had looked obscure until just the very moment that one starts to operate with coding. Also, coding doesn’t necessarily require the availability of technology as it isn’t technology in itself, but it’s about thinking.
Another striking result of this experience was the huge participation to the two offline events connected to the MOOC, one held in Naples and the other in Urbino in the month of March, which attracted more than 1.500 participants, including hundreds of kids taking pictures of, and asking for autographs from, Derek Breen, author of “Scratch for Kids”, and making him feel like a rockstar!
All this, to underline how diversity is the character of this experience: diversity as in variety, which is the power that fuels the evolution of a population. There are certain stereotypes around the STEM population, implying that it is one of the least diverse groups. This damages both those who would be willing to approach those subjects, since it acts as a barrier to entry, and also blocks the evolution of innovation with a variety of ideas, perceptions and perspectives.
Just to mention a figure, 82% of the Coding MOOC community is female in gender, which means more than 5.000 women, primary school teachers, secondary school professors and digital animators, collaborating with their students to use the computational thinking in the most diverse subjects. Now, who’s going to say that science and technology aren’t for girls?
This article was adapted from the post “Coding in School to Overcome Stereotypes” by professor Alessandro Bogliolo, coordinator of the Information Science and Technology Division of the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics at Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo, published here in Italian: http://www.forumpa.it/scuola-istruzione-e-ricerca/con-il-coding-a-scuola-si-superano-gli-stereotipi