Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 22, 2013

Support for school technology plan

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Andover Townsman

I attended the May 16 School Committee meeting where David Birnbach presented his technology and engineering initiatives. As a parent and clinical neuropsychologist, I strongly support his proposal, particularly his plan to teach elementary school students to program computers using MIT’s “Scratch.”

Scratch is a programming language developed by MIT that allows children to “drag and click” coding modules rather than typing out each line of code. This is genius. For those of us who programmed as kids, we know that spelling errors and small typing mistakes when writing code can create a wall of frustration when learning to program.

My 9- and 10-year-old sons, like a lot of kids, can happily play computer games until their eyes glaze over. Last year, we were introduced to Scratch. After a short time, they were hooked, and we have spent hours creating programs together on the Scratch platform. They now know what a variable is; they can create an “if then” loop. They can use keyboard input and “sensors” on the screen to create a game where one player controls a ship and the other shoots at it with a cannon.

While they still play regular video games, their relationship to computers has changed. Scratch transformed my sons from computer consumers to computer producers. Beyond the complex problem-solving practice and stealth math they are learning, I am happiest with this change in their relationship to technology.

I want to see the School Committee approve David’s proposal to bring this opportunity to every elementary school child. Ultimately, I think that we all want our Andover educational system producing engineering and technology producers, not just consumers.

Karen Postal

9 Hearthstone Place