Learning How the Web Works

Filed in: Media Literacy

Filed by Sarah Jackson


9.4.12 | Wondering how to teach computer literacy? I found some inspiration for the new school year in this video from the New Learning Institute about a week-long summer camp called Design, Art and Code.

Seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders in Chicago and New York spent a week learning the basics of visual design and computer programming. So instead of sitting at home on their couches playing videos games, these students spent it working with professional designers and programmers to understand the basics of design, and how, with a few simple key strokes, they can change the web, their favorite games and maybe even build some of their own.

The camp was created at the non-profit Institute of Play, the same folks behind the Quest to Learn school in New York City and Chicago Quest. Students spent their week experimenting with 3-D graphics and printing, and learning the basics of software coding and creative computing.

“They get to create web pages, not just view them,” said Don Miller, an informal learning developer at Institute of Play. “They get to modify games, or maybe create small ones of their own. And that kind of empowerment breaks down the model of students as consumers and allows them to create some of the digital media that they enjoy.”

Students learned how to make simple web pages and how to work in an open-source environment. They got to play around with iPads, animate simple robots, and show off their creations to family and friends. But the most exciting part, according to Miller, was when instructors taught students how to change one piece of the source code in “Minecraft,” a game many of them know and love, to shift how the game looks and behaves:

Within minutes they were modifying the source code of other files, changing the behavior of the game, and students were going from computer to computer, crowding around each other and kind of seeing what everyone was doing.

Watch the video above for more. The students are so articulate about why this learning is so powerful for them – it helps them understand how to create, how things work, and how to learn through failure. Says one: “We learn it and then we try it out. And if it doesn’t work the first time, we find a way to fix it and we learn it and try it out again.”

What wonderful words of wisdom to bring into the year ahead.

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