One of my favorite parts of visiting our coding classes is seeing the students’ faces when they show off what they’re working on. Dancing fish, flying raindrops, and pivoting tanks fill computer screens, miles of code beside them as students put logic and creativity together to create dynamic and unexpected results.
On a visit today this pride in creation brought me back to my youth. A student who had just finished developing a game took me on an adventure, jumping, blasting aliens, and running through a world of hazards. It was glorious.
And reminded me of the (now vintage) games of my own youth.
As impressive as watching the complexity of the game he’d developed was listening to the student explain the particulars of how he’d created the avatar. He took me behind the (digital) curtain for a pixelated demonstration of what’s right with education today.
“This was tough,” he told me, smiling as he said it. I asked him how long he’d spent on the game, and with another smile, he said: “Like a month and a half.”
In a world where some skeptics suggest that youth today lack patience or the ability to defer gratification, this student (who is not, in my experience, an anomaly) showed that effort and time were happily spent, if the task at hand was relevant, compelling, and had an audience he wanted to impress.
Smart teachers bring this vision to assignments in math, and English, and science, and history. Elective teachers have always known that young musicians, actors, and artists are capable of surprising greatness, a direct result of their passion for what they create.
So as today I watched the pixelized hero swashbuckle in the way adventurers did on my Atari 2600 a lifetime ago, I felt an excitement for coding, an excitement for possibility, and an excitement for learning.
Before I left the coding room I asked the student what he thought he might do next. “I might make a new game,” he said. “Or expand this one.” The possibilities are limitless.