Google introduced a series of educational games in 2014 in a project that was meant to promote computer literacy among kids. These games were designed in such a way that they could be able to introduce programming to students without any prior programming experience.
Over the last few months, we have introduced blockly games to students in secondary and primary schools. Our first trial was with secondary school pupils at a Maths Camp organized in Kitale, Kenya over the August holidays. It was an exciting moment for us since, unlike other times, programming has mainly been done using computers but now we were using tablets to introduce programming basics to these students. In their journals, the students wrote that among other thematic sessions, programming was the most exciting session for them and that they really enjoyed solving the puzzles in the blockly games.
We later introduced these games to primary school pupils in one of the schools in Trans Nzoia County. The games seemed complex to some of the students who had not had any prior experience with using tablets let alone programming. This is, therefore , a learning opportunity for them. By playing these games they can be able to think logically while solving these games. In programming, missing one step means that there will be a bug and therefore they must move step by step until they can be able to figure out the correct sequence of commands.
In one of our sessions, we encountered a class six pupil who was remarkably talented. Wekhonye Primary School, is a rural school and therefore access to computers is a problem. The school has one computer and there is also a community library within the area and it has a couple of computers that are to be used by over a thousand pupils from the area. Despite these challenges, this pupil has been able to learn computer basics from these two sources; the community library and the school computer. “Redempta usually helps us to key in data entry using Microsoft Excel and type documents using Microsoft Word, she can also be able to design certificates using Ms Publisher.”, says the deputy head teacher.
We noted this pupil in our first tablets club session whereby pupils from different classes could come together and work on different things using tablets for one hour. It was impressive to see a 12-year-old pupil from a rural school move major steps in solving the Maze game; one of the blockly games. She moved from level one to a complex level ten in 3 weeks without much help. It was interesting to see how she could make mistakes while trying to solve a certain level and repeat over and over again until she got it right. She used to play this games during one hour ICT club meet ups which used to take place two days a week. This game required her to write a series of commands in order to solve the Maze game. Redempta is one of the exceptional pupils in her school when it comes to computer literacy. In a conversation with Redempta, she revealed to us that she intends to be a neurosurgeon so as to provide treatment to persons in need. Redempta’s abilities showed us that when pupils are provided with the opportunity to learn, they could be able to do remarkable things.
She taught us that pupils can be natural learners, therefore, all we need to do is to spark curiosity which is the engine of achievement. This is why we must always aim to provoke, stimulate and engage these learners. In the next one year when we shall be here, we shall continue with this unstoppable journey that will help in making sure that kids like Redempta do not become the exception, they need to be norm. The main focus shall be providing the rest with an opportunity to learn, make mistakes and eventually solve complex problems.