10 places where anyone can learn to code

TED Blog

blog_learn_to_code_art_revTeens, tweens and kids are often referred to as “digital natives.” Having grown up with the Internet, smartphones and tablets, they’re often extraordinarily adept at interacting with digital technology. But Mitch Resnick, who spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet in November, is skeptical of this descriptor. Sure, young people can text and chat and play games, he says, “but that doesn’t really make you fluent.”

[ted_talkteaser id=1657]Fluency, Resnick proposes in today’s talk, comes not through interacting with new technologies, but through creating them. The former is like reading, while the latter is like writing. He means this figuratively — that creating new technologies, like writing a book, requires creative expression — but also literally: to make new computer programs, you actually must write the code.

The point isn’t to create a generation of programmers, Resnick argues. Rather, it’s that coding is a gateway to broader learning.“When you learn to read, you…

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TOP 10 Blogs/Websites for Education & Technology

Below are the 10 blogs and websites I found useful during this school year. Each offers a unique lens through which educators can not only get apprised on the debates in education and technology, but also access useful resources to improve teaching practice.

  1. The Media Education Foundation

This is my #1 go-to resource when I explicitly teach ‘media’ in my classroom. It’s an excellent source for integrating critical media across disciplines. The board of advisors include: Noam Chomsky, Henry Giroux, Naomi Klein, bell hooks. It also included the late Stuart Hall. Seriously? It doesn’t get better.

  1. Edutopia

Edutopia, funded by The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), is a blog for educators, which focuses on implementing assessment, social and emotional learning and technology, among other areas. I found them useful for the resources they link to, such as their resource roundup on digital learning. There are good articles that provide useful ideas for teaching, learning and assessment.

  1. Education Radio

“Education Radio is committed to exposing the profit driven interests fueling current education policies while addressing issues of true equity and access in public education. ”

This is a blog that focuses on producing podcasts related to education. There are multiple contributors, many of whom are activists. I highly recommend listening to the following: Educational Technology: Tool for Capitalism or Democracy? (Published Saturday, November 26, 2011)

  1. Audrey Watters’ Hack Education

I recommend starting with her post “On ‘Viral” Education Videos” published 13 May, 2013. The video featured exemplifies the most transformative part of teaching. In this instance, the teacher didn’t see the opportunity.

This blog focuses on an interesting concept: Hack Education, which refers to “a technological solution, a technology intrusion, a technological possibility, a technological disaster.” Rather than focusing on how technology and education is affecting systems of education, she focuses more broadly (and much more interestingly) on the implications of technology on our future. The content is substantive and very well written.

  1. The Grassroots Education Movement

This is a blog that is “in defense of public education” and focuses on school-level organizing in the U.S. If you are looking for political strategies to resist the corporatization of public schooling, this is a good source.

  1. Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools is a non-profit magazine founded in 1986, which advocates for “common schools.” Common schools refer to spaces where “children from a variety of backgrounds come together and, at least in theory, learn to talk, play, and work together.” Their mission is to address the various inequalities that constitute our society through their magazine. The current issues features an editorial on “Queering Schools” that’s worth a read. LGBT issues are so important and underrepresented in schooling literature.

  1. Media Smarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy

Media Smarts is an organization which promotes digital and media literacy or, rather, digital citizenship. There are some good resources that can supplement the Media Education Foundation. I stress supplement because this is a corporate sponsored organization, which means that they have a stake in promoting only the benefits of digital media. I included it because it is a Canadian source, which is often underrepresented.

  1. Centre for Democracy and Technology

This Centre is a non-profit organization whose goal is to “preserve the user-controlled nature of the Internet and champion freedom of expression.” This is a useful blog to track news about legislation related to privacy. I found this unique in its international focus.

  1. Diane Ravitch’s A site to discuss better education for all

This blog focuses on writing about the corporatization of education in the U.S and delivers thoughtful opinion about education; she draws on anecdotal data and incorporates polemic debates in her posts

10. Valerie Strauss’ “The Answer Sheet” published by the Washington Post

Valerie Strauss is an Educational Reporter for the Washington Post who publishes op-ed pieces that reflect the current debates in education, especially in the U.S. The Canadian educational landscape is quite different from the U.S; however, many here do fear that corporatization and global movements toward a ‘Knowledge-Based Economy’ will privatize public education sectors and undermine employee protection legislation fought for by teacher unions.

Honorable Mention:

EduShyster: Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda

Jennifer C. Berkshire follows how “Education Reform Inc.” is affecting the educational landscape in the U.S., with focus on its social impacts. It’s quite tongue-and-cheek, which is why I included it. The style of the pieces might offer budding bloggers a more satirical model for their writing.

Humanity and the Digital Revolution – Michel Serres at USI

Michel Serres is the author of the well known book The Parasite, in which he uses the model of the parasite/host to draw a link to the ways in which humans can influence public discourse — as a metaphor for human relations. He was invited to Unexpected Sources of Inspiration (USI) to discuss how humanity has changed as a result of the digital revolution.

He begins with a discussion of the word ‘humanely’ which has two definitions in French: an ethical, moral (i.e., dealing with someone humanely) or an anthropological one, which is the definition he takes up in discussing the ‘man’ of today. I found this discussion relevant for my work because it gives substance to the notion that digital technologies are impacting our very being in ways we can’t yet trace. He terms this a ‘transitory period of crisis’ although I don’t think he uses the word crisis to allude to a morality, but rather to an entrenchment in a change — in a newness — which we are not yet able to make sense out of. What do we mean by the word new? Serres provides a quantitative definition of new as being “proportional to the time length that this event is stopping.”  So his argument is that ‘man’ is changing. Here are his supporting points:

1. We are no longer a farming humanity: At the beginning of the last century, farming in Paris comprised a little over 70% of the population, whereas today it is difficult to even see a farmer. This is in large part due to the war, which wiped out a significant number of this population, in addition to introducing new technologies. He marks 1950 as the end of this period.

2. We live largely in cities: in 1830, only 8% of humanity lived in cities; in 2050, we are certain that figure will reach 50-60%. The result is changing housing patterns, in addition to contributing to the marginalization of rural life. This has an affect on history, which has always privileged the city, as well as on our behavior and mindset.

3. Our relationship to our body has changed: Before WWII, the distribution of a physician’s diagnosis were 36%  syphilis, 30% of tuberculosis and 40% as ‘other’ ailments. Today, antibiotics have eradicated infectious diseases (although we know this is also a produces inequities in which the question is really “eradicated for whom?”) and, in the developing world, our relationship to one another is no longer characterized by pain.

4. Increase in demographics and life expectancy: The impact of point #3 is that we are living longer. In 1820, a woman was not expected to live beyond the age of 30, whereas today, 30 is considered her prime. Today’s life expectancy is 84-85 and grows by about 6 months every year, except in the US, where it is decreasing. As a result, our economy – particularly the distribution of wealth along lineage  – is changing.

5. Space is changing: Serres uses the notion of the ‘address’ to illustrate this point by saying that his home address — a metric space — no longer receives mail; however, his mobile devices do. This isn’t to suggest that there is a time-space compression: we have changed space, not address. This requires a new imagining of institutions that have not yet been invented, thus impacting laws which serve to regulate this new space.

6. Language is changing: The rate of change, which he defines as a difference in gradient between words that enter and exit a dictionary on a given year, is extraordinary. In the case of the French language, an average of 2000-3000 words shift from those leaving to those coming in; however, the next publication will have a difference of 37,000 words in a language which has 150,000 words. This shift is taking place across a number of languages, including English, and is largely the result of the fact that most of the trades that existed in the 1950s don’t exist anymore.

7. The West has been living in peace for 65 years, which hasn’t happened since the last Trojan War.

I find his points convincing, but certainly lacking in the sense that he provides observation of major changes ‘mankind’ is undergoing, linking largely to statistical data, but doesn’t seem to touch upon the ways in which the West, by its very definition, is constituted by the exploitation of resources and labour in countries it terms developing. As if our accomplishments were achieved without a cost. Arguably, it is the very advancement of our civilization that will lead to its collapse.