Wednesday, 16 December 2015

I am working with First Code Academy as an Assistant Instructor for this week. I have two Tinker Camp classes every weekday. The subject of the classes I am in charge of is a block-based programming language called "Scratch", and my students are between 8 to 10 years old.

The children are lovable (I think most of them like me too), and I say so even though I thought I am uncomfortable with children. There are some who are mostly attentive and are interested in furthering the projects that we introduce in class. There are some who become distracted for a part of the lesson because they were either too much faster than their peers, solely seeks completion and not pushing to perfection, or were extremely prone to giving up at the slightest lack of clarity.

I am not the lead instructor, but I do want to at least share some reflections with you readers who must either be my friends, family, or people just as interested in tech as me.

It is not easy to ensure even 6 children are learning to their fullest. I was running around throughout the class to answer my students' questions. Some of them ask about advanced topics, such as adding new features to their applications. Some of them ask about a specific customisation to the features that we introduced. Some of them ask practical but important questions like dealing with scripts or sprites that were misplaced.

There were also children asking me about almost everything about the programming. I understand that programming does not come that easily especially if you are not even in upper primary/secondary level and do not have the backing of their math to aid in more complicated logical thinking that is required in creating games.

And the questions often come simultaneously. I would be able to deal with all of their questions almost immediately if I programmed for them, but is that the aim of our camp? So I made it a point to stop and try to question them back with prompts about concepts that were taught in the previous lessons. These prompts work for most of the time, but they consume more time.

I usually only manage to answer one question per student whenever I was asked a barrage of questions (some asked one after another but I had to postpone the answers). I had to try hard to motivate them to work on their own, also as a measure to buy enough time for me to answer another child's question.

About the children being distracted, I should recommend force-screen-sharing to my organisation. Some children could not close their laptop lids because the laptop would be switched off and I think it is overly intrusive to change their computer configurations especially if they are not exactly clear about how we do it on their computer. And because of this, the more mischievous children will exploit this loophole by refusing to close their laptop lids and even playing on their computers during teaching time. There was also a girl who brought her phone; she used the Wi-Fi to her advantage and soon became distracted with her phone games. I guess it was a bad move to reveal the Wi-Fi password.

I failed to challenge the more capable and faster students mostly because I prioritised the catching-up of the other students. There really is a limit to what one person can do. I did not have any break despite the lesson having 5 to 10 minutes' break during parts of the class. And there were still unanswered questions. A student came early this morning and asked me a question which he asked me yesterday but did not get an answer for. Thankfully, because there were still 20 minutes to class, I could answer him.

Although unlike my older colleagues, I did not have to complete any post-lesson duties, I still felt like I really put in my all for my students. Because I tried to teach them through their haziness about programming during those two hours everyday, the two hours which make the difference to their learning.

It has been a enriching and fulfilling experience, I hope that what my students bring back from the classes with me will be valuable in easing their lives. It need not be about computer science; it is more about the way of thinking, and that is the most difficult to inculcate and nurture.

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