Co-authored by Middle School Tech Club Sponsors Susan Fitzgerald, Library Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach
In days gone by, the teacher was the sage on the stage – the expert in the room. Today educators are working with a population of post-modern learners with needs and learning styles that are very different from their industrial-age parents and grandparents. Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.
With that in mind, it is unrealistic nor good instructional practice to presume the teacher remain the expert and captain of the ship. For motivation, passion and creativity to be fostered in students, we have to stop being the tyrannical Captain and become the endearing Love Boat Captain Merril Stubing.
When we started this voyage, the intention of the Tech Club was to foster student engagement with the district’s implementation of ePortfolios through Google Sites. What happened then was much like the legend of Blackbeard, in that our well-intentioned Tech Club was “hi-jacked” and the resources were pillaged for their treasure by a group of Pirate Coders.
These Pirate Coders, a group of 7th graders, took our Tech Club premise and revamped the course. They needed a place to congregate, collaborate and create. Perhaps they saw something in us that we weren’t even aware was in us… but somehow they knew we were up for a mutiny on the Bounty. They wanted to overhaul the Tech Club for the purpose of learning coding and programming and we seized the opportunity for the challenge.
The realization that there was a treasure to be discovered was during the HourofCode.org event in early December. It was at this point that our students began presenting self-written code that created things such as browsers, calculators with square root function, and operating systems.
As facilitators we shared the message of coding, created an online course to help access resources and allow for collaborative discussion forums. Every time we met they collaborated, learned, and coached one another. Soon we knew their message and passion-driven work needed to be shared beyond our school. Our districts technology showcase TechnoExpo was the perfect forum to share the Pirate Coders’ treasure chest of learning. To a standing-room only audience, the Tech Club presented their message of passion about coding, goals and big ideas. They were even solicited for their autographs… our Pirate Coders were legendary.
Pirate Coders (Tech Club members) took the helm from there. They were ready for their next voyage… they were headed into the winds with full sails. Together the Pirate Coders knew, to achieve their goals, they would have to organize their resources. A constitution and bylaws was written, an executive council was elected, they collaborated through their Google accounts, and a platform for sharing lesson plans on coding (including languages like batch, c++, dos, and java script), was developed.
Who knew letting these Pirate Coders take over our ship would have taken us to this place. We haven’t reached our destination but we are so glad we changed from the traditional educational route. We are here to keep them in safe waters, but not keep them from taking an exciting new course. They set the course with their coordinates. We are here to help maintain the ship… but they are here to navigate the ship. For that we are glad… had we not seen the beauty in the horizon, we might had never left the port.
All photographs compliments of Sue Fitzgerald and Kirsten Wilson.