theMolisticView

A new journey in education

The click and drag problem

with 5 comments

Something which has been bothering me a lot in recent weeks is what I term the click and drag syndrome.

I currently have two senior multimedia classes, one of which is near the end. Both however have lead to make the following assumption, they cannot produce their own content because they cannot think for themselves. Broad assumption I know, my thoughts on how i reached this conclusion are way to long for a blog post.

I include as much subject material as possibly can be used in the restrictive three terms provided to us in the preliminary year. I do however concentrate on HTML, CSS for building websites, in recent years Flash and this year I have moved in to game making with Microsoft XNA Game Studio.

Now the four technologies listed above are all code intensive and require their user to have knowledge of the basic building blocks. Once you have this basic knowledge you can go forth and produce amazing things, your imagination and own personal knowledge are the only draw backs.

More so this year then last year the students struggle with the basic concepts of the underlying languages. Even when all they have to do is copy out what is provided to them they struggle. The easiest way to make a web page in my classroom is to use Adobe Fireworks. I provide my students with the print outs from the fireworks for der wiki I set up last year which demonstrates how to make a web page or site in this brilliant graphical editor. Only six students in my class could achieve this, the same ones who can write code as turns out.

Late last term we turned early and started on the game making, this was the thing more than any other section of the subject they all wanted to learn. To best start them off I thought some normal Windows programming would be best. Making simple Windows forms a web browser and a weather application, simple small introductory steps to a bigger picture. This is where I got the drag and drop phrase from. When you produce applications using Visual Studio you are presented with a canvas of a Windows application window. You drag and drop the visual elements (UI, user interface) on to the canvas, drag them to where they look best for your users, then you code the behind files as they are known to make the application come to life. The drag and droppers could not do it, simply to hard. They had to think about it, they had to write code from their own knowledge.  As soon as the drag and droppers hit an obstacle they stop as if they have run head on into a wall.

To keep pace I moved them on to XNA and game making, the discussions were excellent, idea generation etc. were all top notch. Again they were guided through the fundamentals shown examples and provided with reusable code (pieces for movement, detecting screen size and algorithms for collision detection). As soon as they had to work it out and produce their own they hit the wall. XNA and most game making software does not have a drag n drop interface. All the work is completed through code, hand writing code which you have to make.

Within a week we were back at the wall, attendance raised its head, work was not handed in and on the syndrome goes. I asked them to provide alternatives, everyone who brought something in brought in a cheesy drag and drop interface where the software did all the work, all the user had to do is drag and drop. I’m sorry but Scratch may be a handy tool to learn with, much like stickman is for animation but you cannot make a HSC assessable product with it.

They are all now 17. Do I have to hold their hand through the HSC?

How did it get this way? I have never taught copy and paste answers, do others? Do other teachers teach only the drag and drop?

I’m bumfuddled to say the least…

Written by theMolisticView

August 6th, 2011 at 7:54 pm

5 Responses to 'The click and drag problem'

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  1. Great post! HSC hand-holding should not be happening. They will eventually learn that they only get out what they put in – though this lesson may come too late.

    Clarindabrown

    6 Aug 11 at 8:12 pm

  2. Cut and Paste certainly could be a factor, but to me the reason your (and most) students would hit a brick wall is because schools/curricula teach stuff-all about problem solving, reasoning, logic, critical thinking and even empathy. The standard assessment model of “did this student memorise and regurgitate the information well enough?” will not assist with the critical thinking required when coding an interactive application. And even if you touch on it in your subject, it’s not enough because to gather the experience necessary, you need to practise independent thinking, troubleshooting and logic. It doesn’t come naturally.

    Stu

    6 Aug 11 at 8:42 pm

  3. You speak the truth Stu. However the time spent learning HTML in my class would be three time that of others, the C# language on the other hand is no were near enough. If you go back and look at what year 9 accomplished in just a term though, makes this year 11 class look like they are in year 7 still. I am trying to get a game making club running but the kids are not interested in after school learning which makes it difficult.

    theMolisticView

    6 Aug 11 at 8:53 pm

  4. Nice post – I think every teacher runs up on the rocks of frustration with the spoon feed phenomenon. And the fact that it was a student choice that they ended up in that class can be even more puzzling. You would think that these kids should be the more motivated to learn and play. I agree with Stu, and I’ll go a bit further – once the credentiallers realise that the whole one size fits all (assessment tasks and tests) model of assessment and needs to be dumped in place of real world, competency (show me what you can do) based achievement in just about all KLA’s, the better.

    Jonesy

    6 Aug 11 at 10:14 pm

  5. Pointing to the assessment as the cause of the problem isn’t correct either – here in the ACT I’ve experienced similar issues and we don’t have external exams – all assessment is school/class based and none of my IT classes sit “regurgitate”-style tests.

    The problem is in the approach of schooling in general – even though every curriculum or framework places an emphasis on skills to some degree, a large part of it still prescribes what content students are supposed to know to be valuable members of societ when they finish school. We then divide it all up into discrete subjects tha kids should study – Maths, English, science etc. Too bad the world doesn’t actually operate in pure isolation – what we need is to be delivering everything in a more integrated way, which requires teachers with multiple skills, understanding beyond single disciplines and a LOT more teamwork and collaboration.

    If we want kids to be doing what Stu talks about above, the first things that need to die are content-based frameworks, the KLAs and “traditional” pedagogies. Teachers are professionals and, like any other, should be given the freedom and power to determine what the educational needs of all of their students are, and to act on them.

    Bruce

    17 Sep 11 at 5:50 pm

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