Reconciling doubt

Despite the bravado displayed by many high-achieving undergraduates, educators recognize the uncertainty that exists in those young minds when faced with subjects outside the students’ realm of comfort. Students unintentionally project a frightful degree of complexity onto any topic. Most people, not just students, throw up these mental roadblocks throughout their lives. We preach the value of learning to learn but demonstrating the mental models for accomplishing that is seldom our curricular focus.

Technology, particularly the accompanying desire to learn programming, represent a source of trepidation for students in many disciplines. Everyone in our digitally-infused environment recognizes the values of a detailed understanding of technology, which again is too often manifested in the need to learn coding. Courses in programming for non-programmers offer a guided approach that is seemingly less pressured than a Computer Science class. Another, potentially more valued, method of orienting students towards a digital mindset is to reframe technology within a framework of creativity.

Providing structured experiences that nurture the student’s own curiosity about a topic present a different set of options for learning. Coding shifts from the goal and becomes the means of accomplishing a vision created by the student. The student learns what she needs to know to create what she envisioned. This approach of learning as one needs to know more accurately reflects the type of work, particularly web development, as actually experienced in the workplace. Many students will find this creative focused mindset energizing, but it’s also a barrier for some who have been conditioned that they are not blessed with creativity or that they just don’t have “talent”.

We must breakdown the mysteries behind not just coding but also creativity and talent. We learn through sequencing tasks. Pedagogical conversations often mention scaffolding, but rarely venture into the details of constructing scaffolds for learning. Most of what passes for talent is simply the outcome of sustained effort.

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