This is the story of "The Coming of Code" as interpreted by our Teen Studio Support Coordinator, Danielle Manzo:
Modern science tells us, that billions of years before there was a concept of time there was a blossoming of a new universe filled with swirling helium and hydrogen. These swirls started to compound into bits of carbon that cooked in what could be termed as a little oven until it burst into the light of the stars we know today. It seems so very simple; just a few elements. However, that helium, hydrogen, and carbon transformed again and again to create magnificent planets that support atmospheres and life. This life began with one celled prokaryotes that eventually led to us, the modern human. Without that these elements we would not be here today, so it only seems appropriate that we start at the beginning when investigating what code is and how it launched us into the technology boom that we live in today.
Remember, current scientists tell us that human history is very short in comparison to how long the universe has been in existence. That carbon spent an outstanding amount of time manipulating itself and being transformed into different parts of this universe. Maria Montessori was no stranger to this concept and passionately reflected on the idea of cosmic purpose for this very reason. She explains that each species, or life form has a specific purpose in its lifetime. This is why when we start an investigation as learners, we start back at the beginning of the cosmos exploring our progression of a species, discovering our purpose, and our potential on this earth. We are a very advanced species, seemingly never happy where we are, always wanting to find information, progressing to the next level of efficiency and discovery. Because of this it can be inferred that we are an extremely creative, manipulative species, constantly innovating what we already know. It is almost as if we are empowered by the question, what if? Sometimes our innovations move us forward as a community. After all, we created fire to stay warm, buildings for shelter, and ways to find, capture, and grow food. These innovations lead to communities, cities, and societies, countries, and governments.
This progression is not always smooth and simple. History, changing territories, and populations gives us this clue. Some of these innovations lead to great conflicts and the ability to take one another’s life. We figured out how to kill not only each other, but also cause great damage to our earth and other species on this planet. During our short history as a species we have helped change not only how our planet looks, but also weather patterns and our atmosphere. We have brought great disease upon ourselves and ended up famished from lack of food and resources in some areas of the world. That brings about the question, are the changes and effects we have on this world positive?
This question is not easy to answer, but as we look at the level of communication we have achieved, we will continually uncover evidence that helps us form evidence in hopes of coming to a conclusion. Our species’ story starts millions of years ago when our struggle to survive was very real. As we progressed we discovered the need to tell our story from generation to generation. At this point this story acted as documentation and instruction for how to successfully survive. Survival was our first goal at this time. At first our story was simply verbal, handed down from generation to generation through storytelling. Then, we discovered we could tell a more accurate story through pictures and paintings. Today we can see paintings of our ancestors hunting and gathering for survival along the walls of caves throughout modern Europe. Our search for further communication did not stop there, as our instinct for survival was too keen.
We found that if we used a consistent set of images, symbols, and pictures we could tell a more complex story. This complex form of documentation lead to the ability to cultivate and settle down into civilizations that did not have to depend on roaming animals for nutrition. These civilizations grew as new responsibilities became clear and governments started to form. Some of these civilizations are ones we know by name thanks to archaeologists. One of these civilizations were the Ancient Sumerians. They began to make signs using a wedge shaped tool called a stylus. They pushed the tool into soft clay and it made an impression, then it baked in the sun and became hard. People used the signs they made to make books and they had whole libraries filled with this special script called ‘cuneiform’ writing. This progressed to the Egyptians who created hieroglyphics that we can actually translate into modern language thanks to the Napoleon's discovery of the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone contained hieroglyphics next to ancient greek allowing for connections to be made between two languages. Around the same time Ancient Greece and Egypt were coming about the the Phoenicians were making their presence known in the world of communication and thought hieroglyphics were useful, but sometimes difficult to understand. They simplified this letter system into a series of symbols that show the sounds made when a word is said. There were around 20 symbols. This is also where we get the word phonetics from today.
As time went on, societies formed letters into alphabets with phonetic sounds that allowed for our speech and writing to meet as one. History was not only created by archaeologists at this point, it was created by our own hands. From here innovations of new tools for writing became more advanced as we created the printing press. This form of technology allowed us to create publications for the masses. Up to this point, only highly educated citizens, many monks, were able to write and read. This was a sign of power. Because of this press, the common person could now learn to read, write, and communicate with future generations.
Over time, we progressed into fantastical fiction that entertained us by way of theater and novels. It is at this point that we begin to know great writers like Shakespeare and Jane Austen. We wrote down discoveries about our word, the universe around us, and our progression continued. Soon we figured out we could build mechanisms that delivered code, swiftly from one place to another. The invention of morse code allowed people over long distances to communicate clearly for the first time. Unfortunately, some of these machines also allowed us to work against our enemies, continuing a troubling tradition of human violence.
Over time we found that we could build more sophisticated machines that communicated our writing to one another in the form of binary 1’s and 0’s. Today, we know this as the computer. The computer allowed us to process words differently. Written progress could be saved and added to in the future. The invention of the computer allowed us to travel to new distances, which included outer space; where we began.
Soon after, we discovered a way to transport this writing, almost magically through email, and if you are a certain age your remember the haunting sounds of dial up and AOL’s chant, “You’ve got mail.” Computer languages were born to serve a variety of different purposes. Some allow for meticulous documentation. Others give us the ability to create completely new environments in a virtual reality, which expands to social media. Suddenly, our prepared environments could potentially expand to online tools such as the Google Suite we use throughout much of Community Montessori.
The exciting thing about binary code is that it is a combination of language and math that has made the speed of communication almost instant. It has also fused the world of language and science that has helped us with such achievements as space travel as mentioned before and the internet. Now, we can communicate with someone in China quite casually. We can look through all of the collections that the Louvre in Paris, France has to offer. We can also create images that are almost as realistic as life itself. It could be argued that our advances in the area of writing and communication have sped up our entire way of life. Information is coming at us faster than ever, forcing us to innovate at a rate that is hard to describe, and in many ways, that could change the very lifestyles we lead.
Our struggle for nutrition and civilization is a distant memory as we deal with current issues such as the potential for nuclear warfare or what so and so said about us on Twitter. Peace is not an impossibility, but a concept we must continue trying to achieve. How do we figure out the balance between the joy of updating our Twitter to the fear of nuclear war? This very question of balance brings us back to where we started. Are the changes and effects we have on this world positive? Can we truly find peace, when we have so much power?
Fortunately, we have future generations of learners to continue analyzing these questions as we enter the unknown future. At Community Montessori, we try to prepare our learners for the unknown future while learning how to work through the ever changing present. Several years ago we started to recognize a boom in social media, which is when we created and Social Media Procedures and asked all of our CM Families to really THINK before they post. Is it TRUE? Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING? Is it NECESSARY? It is KIND?
This procedure is one small step in the process of living in our ever changing present, but it is not the only step we are taking. In Early Education learners are learning to establish and understand patterns through the use of sensorial and practical life materials. Patterns are the foundation in which code is build upon. As learners move into Lower Elementary they see how these patterns turn into academic skills and simple programs. The ideas of functions, looping, and binary can be introduced. It is at this point where they can become familiar with how different technologies might work, even without being in front of a screen. This year, it this looked like one of our studies pulling apart an old computer and identifying the task of each different part. In Upper Elementary learners are introduced to email, word processing, and might get to experience a little social media as they start to really grow into their personalities. This might also be a time when they start tinkering code through programs like Scratch or Grasshopper. In the Teens Program teens are learning about their identity how they fit into society both in the real world through Internships, and online as they explore their virtual identities. Their social life is key and all of the aspects they learned throughout their time here come together as they prepare to enter adulthood. The exploration of coding, how video games work, and why media travels so quickly booms!
All we have to do now is keep asking, what’s next? We will continue to help our learners make positive impacts on our world. We will help them to learn to promote peace. We will help them to become agents of change in our ever changing future.