Jamie is a freelance web developer and avid blogger from the UK. As a United Planet volunteer, he is teaching at an after school program to impoverished and underprivileged children in Cusco, Peru for a month. We wanted to share with you one of his lesson plans and hope it may inspire others to more creative approaches to teaching…
Looking for a way to infuse his background in software programming with the curriculum, Jamie took an unconventional approach to teaching.
He decided to teach the children “the concept of input through to output, which lies at the core of programming a computer” by making up a game and giving the kids hands-on tasks to help them grasp the concept.
Despite the lack of computers and the language barrier in the classroom, he was able to captivate the children and share with them a complicated lesson on the basic concept of programming.
Jamie turned a potentially boring lesson into a fun and educational game. He appointed the other volunteers or “los profesores” as the children call them, to be “robots.”
The children acted as programmers who would write down a series of commands to navigate the “robots” through an obstacle course to retrieve and then transport a bag of sweets to the opposite end of the course.
“Within moments the kids grasp the concept and start writing programs. The first round goes terribly, but once they’ve had a chance to see their programs in action, they’re much more confident with the idea and they really start to have fun. This is problem solving at its core, and they take to it incredibly well. They’re pacing across the room, shouting numbers out to team members.”
This game not only served as an introduction to the basics of programming, but also sharpened their group-work and problem-solving skills.
“As far as I’m aware, the only real way to engage young kids in fundamentally dull concepts is to simplify them and make them exciting. Input through to output, in this context, equates to code through to result. Commands through to actions. The most accessible computer with the most immediately ‘viewable’ results, conceptually, is a robot. Everyone knows what a robot is, so I began trying to design a game to allow the kids to control a robot.”
Commenting on the success of his lesson Jamie remarks that, “everybody’s laughing, everybody’s working and everybody’s thinking. It’s moments like this that make me really excited about the future. Understanding these basic concepts are, and will be, fundamental to the future of businesses and the fact that I get to play a tiny role in this is so fulfilling.”
Jamie’s innovation created a memorable learning experience for the kids. Hopefully his story will inspire you to be unafraid to try new and unique teaching methods in the future!