Wednesday, March 14, 2012


There's an interview with Laura Blankenship that I've been ruminating on. Laura teaches computer science to middle schoolers at an all-girls school and blogs at Geeky Mom.

I like her blog a lot, so it doesn't seem like I have a problem with Laura. I do seem to have a problem with the interview, which I haven't quite pinned down.

Part of it is probably the quote, "8th graders hate everything." That hasn't been my experience at all! Middle schoolers like to whine, but they're also frequently engaged and excited and passionate. I think Laura would agree, so it feels like picking nits, but at the same time, the quote really bothers me, maybe because it's at the very beginning of the interview, so it sets the tone.

There's something else about it too. Maybe the generalizations about what kids can and can't do. I find huge variation between students. But I'm not really sure why I keep coming back to it. Maybe because it's so short and poses a lot of questions without a lot of context or solutions.

I'm usually not surprised when students can't do or don't know about something complex that they've never been taught or never been asked to think about before. Have you ever thought about the electricity that powers the devices in your house? Or do you just plug things in and expect them to work? I think the web is like that for kids - unless we point out that there's a huge infrastructure behind things and that the devices (websites) they use can be deconstructed and that they could make their own things, why would they think about it? The web is just there, it's always been there, like electricity or (for those who are young enough) TV. Like electricity, we need to decide what is important enough for students to learn.