Programamos: Everyone should know how to code, from children to seniors

Interview with the andalusian collective Programamos, non-profit project teching code and programming at an early age by developing video games and mobile apps. The association is composed of:

Jesús (@j_morenol) is Technical Engineer in Computer Systems, with a Master in Telematics Systems Engineering and PhD student in Technology Enhanced Learning. He has got 10 years of teaching experience as an informatics teacher at Secondary Schools and Skills. He collaborated as expert and judge member in WorldSkills International London 2011 and WorldSkills Europe Spa 2012. At present, he works in the National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training.

José Ignacio (@jihuefer) is Technical Engineer in Computer Systems, with a Master in Telematics Systems Engineering. He has taught informatics in Secondary School and Skills for ten years. He worked as an expert and consultant in the Educational Counseling of Andalucía Government and at the Agency of Educational Evaluation. Now he works in the “Polígono Sur” High School teaching different models in Informatics Skills.

Patricia (@patriflorp) is teacher of Physical Education, Music and Primary Studies, graduated in Psychology with 10 years of teaching experience. Now she works as Studies Chief in “Paz y Amistad” School, a center at “Polígono Sur” of Seville where she has started an educational project that promotes the development of computational thinking throw the programing.

María (@mariamorianac) is teacher of Kindergarten and Primary students with more than 10 years of teaching experience. At present she works in “Ortiz de Zúñiga” School in Seville and she studies a Master in Bilingual Education at Pablo de Olavide University. As part of her Final Master Project, she is investigating how to use the informatics programing to improve the learning processes and the English teaching in bilinguals Centers.

1. Tell us, how was “Programamos” born and what are its objectives?

Programamos is a nonprofit association which fundamental objective is to promote the development of computational thinking since early ages throw videogames and mobile applications in every scholar step, since Kindergarten till Skills. In Programamos we are convinced that in the near future it will be necessary to know programming in a huge sector and not only in the TI sector, so that we considered that teaching programming to our students could be a very important factor in their future and the society.

But instead there are scientist evidences that learning programming and creating software applications not only prepare youth for their studies and technical professions, but also it helps them to improve as computational thinker who can use this knowledge and skills in many aspects of society, powering their creativity and their ability of innovation and entrepreneurship. After many years working with Secondary and Bachelor students, we thought the possibility of fit our practices to other educational levels and disciplines.

So we contacted to other teachers and we prepared some workshops in few schools to evaluate these possibilities. The results were wonderful and really motivator, so we decided to start up a website to share this kind of initiatives and work as a meeting point to every teacher o parent who want to teach programming to scholar youth.

This is how Programamos was born, as a teacher community that collaborates and joins efforts trying to improve our diary practice and help to our students preparing them to the world that they will have to develop in it.

2. How does the platform work and how can you participate in it?

In our platform it is explained the motivations of this project and its objectives, there is incorporated information that pretends to help new teacher to plan this initiative in their classes and it is uploaded all the didactical materials that we use in our classes. There is also a blog where it is shared our experiences and ideas in a close way and a forum section where everybody can ask questions and make suggestions, tell their own experiences, share new tools to the community, etc.

Of course, all the materials and resources are shared with a license that allow everybody to use, modify or adapt them, because from Programamos we try to inculcate to our students the values of free culture and free software.

3. How can video games and mobile applications help in the way to participation and the empowerment of youth and why?

The development of video games and mobile applications is one of the few sectors where it is not necessary a huge infrastructure or a marketing platform to triumph. The most important thing is a good idea, something original and something that helps some actual problems. So, as we are absolutely agreed that our students have got awesome, originals and new ideas, they only need a little help to decide to develop their ideas.

When they learn programming software applications, the students lose their fears to test their own ideas, share their creations and show it to the partner opinion, learn from the advices and critics to keep growing, to reflect on, imagine again new solutions and drive them to practice. In spite of the almost ubiquitous present of the software in so many aspect of life, just a little percent of population can program software applications, so the social creative potential is really limited.

Teaching programming at school is, therefore, a bet to remove social breach that will grow the diversity, originality and future software solutions functionality. As Clive Thompson calls this phenomenon, it is about the democratization of programming.

4. One of the objectives is that the students feel less technologies users and more creators. Do you see the students more motivated? What is their response?

The motivation of our students is awesome when they learn programming their own applications and games, because, as we said previously, the opportunity to make true the creations they have in their minds is presented, there is something they aren’t accustom. For us, as teachers, it is awesome and really satisfactory to see how the students ask for more lessons. Every moment, every time they had an idea to improve an application, they ask for us to explain them some concepts they don’t understand or some functionalities more advanced. And not only this, but also many times it’s the own student who finds out new answers and shares them to their partners, collaborating or searching information on the Internet.

5. What means for you the citizen empowerment in the actual situation?

From our point of view, the citizen empowerment passes for the education, the personal relationships and connections, and in this sense we think that technology should play a fundamental role. The actual society, that changes really fast, requires people ready to invent new solutions that fit unexpected situations and who can improve the world with a collective action.

6. In your opinion, how can the social use of technology contribute to human development?

In his article “Sowing the Seeds for a More Creative Society”, Mitchel Restnick, director of Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and creator of Sceatch and App Inventor applications, defends that technology is playing a double role in the development of a more creative society. For one side, with the apparition of new technologies, the rhythm of changes is accelerating, so the need of creative thinking is accentuating in many aspects of our lives.

On the other side, the new technologies has the capacity, if they are designed and used in a right way, to help people to grow as creative thinkers, so that they will be more ready for life in a creative society as that the nearest future demands. We share this vision and we had checked in our classes how the use of technology contribute to a bigger development of creativity, imagination, personal initiative, entrepreneurship and, something very important, the removal of genres stereotypes about the STEM disciplines.

7. What is the future of “Programamos” project?

We would like to keep growing and working as a meeting point for teacher and families who want to learn or teach programming to kids, so that between all we can keep improving our teaching practice. For the other side, few months ago we have presented our project to many educational administrations and formation entities and we have planned them some ideas to help expanding our practicing in the schools of our country.

Although we aren’t in the preliminary steps yet and in spite of the economic situation, we think that it is possible to make true some of our propositions to foment the development of computational thinking since early ages.

8. What do you think are now the big challenges to the social use of technology for the citizen empowerment?

The technology must be designed and used to serve people, to help them to change the reality and improve our society. However, the actual situation that we are in shows us that, in many opportunities, the technology that we daily reach looks like it serve to the big corporations or totalitarian States interests, as it is showed in news like the massive spying in the Internet showed by Edward Snowden, cases of malware for mobile phones designed and distributed by governmental military agencies, the collaboration between technologies enterprises with governments to censure the access of their citizen to some specify media, or the cases in that the enterprises that sell smartphones, ebooks or tablets, decide to remove the chance of their user to access to some applications, books or newspapers.

The citizens should evaluate our privacy, we have to understand that, as Jesús González-Barahona says, the technology is not neutral and we must considerer the implications of combination between technology and laws in every step, being proactive in the defense of the society interest.

Maybe this is one of the biggest challenges for the social use of technology for the citizen empowerment, and the recourse goes throw the transmission since early ages of the values of free culture and knowledge, the advantage of collaborative work or the importance of the discrimination of the information sources, giving little step in the searching of societies freer, critical and that promote the social collaboration to solve problems.

9. What advice will you give to the teacher from everywhere who wants to star generating the social innovation in their educational communities learning programming? For where should they start?

As it is clear, to learn programming, first it is necessary to know programming. But the good news are that there are some tools that make extraordinarily easy the job of learning programming and, instead, they convert this process in something really funny and motivational. So our advice is to shake out the fear and nervous and start programming, because we are convinced that this will be an adventure totally satisfactory.

In our website we have upload materials that allow to someone, without informatics skills, to start up writing their own apps with few efforts. These materials are developed thinking in a later application in classes, so that at the same time they learn to write code, they are knowing strategies for the use of these technologies as a didactic tool.

People attribute the following sentence to Isaac Newton, in spite of it’s really a Bernard de Chartres quote: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulder of giants”. In the same line, we advices the teacher who want to star programming to reuse all our materials and resources, adapt them, complete them, modify or improve in their way and, of course, to share with the community with copyleft license and everybody can keep learning from the ideas and the initiatives to the others partners.

10. A quote that resume for you the essence of the citizen empowerment throw the ITC.

We love a sentence of Douglas Rushkoff, who think that if it is bear in mind the previsions of technological developments that point that in 20 years most part of our interactions will be throw machines, he says that “teaching our kids and youth to programming to machines will make everything they want, it seems better idea than let the opposite happen”.


Translated by Bárbara Durán Navarro, Cybervolunteer, Badajoz, Spain

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