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Fiendishly hard IT homework - Sololearn Python 3 for year 7?

(13 Posts)
marfisa Fri 13-Jan-17 00:18:01

DS1 is in year 7. He's normally quite conscientious about doing his homework, but he has been complaining non-stop about his ICT homework recently. The teacher has told the pupils to work at their own pace on a website called Sololearn, doing a course on coding in Python 3, and if they don't make enough progress they get detentions. DS1 has been increasingly frustrated because he says he doesn't understand the Sololearn tutorials. But he's completing the exercises anyway, without understanding them, because he's so worried about getting detention.

So tonight I went online (it's a free website) and started working through the course myself in order to help DS1. I have zero knowledge of coding, but I do have a postgraduate degree, and blimey, it was only with difficulty that I could understand the material. There is lots of specialised vocabulary, and the course itself is clearly designed with adults in mind, not children.

Has anyone else (especially people more clued in about IT than I am) ever heard of using Sololearn as year 7 IT curriculum? Is this teacher bonkers, or is it just me? And if I do raise the issue with the teacher or the school, how do I do it tactfully, without sounding like That Parent?

The school is a comp by the way. The quality of teaching has seemed excellent so far with the exception of these IT classes.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Fri 13-Jan-17 12:02:51

I've taken a quick look. I have a computing degree and (too many) years of coding and learning new languages under my belt.

My goodness! Year 7 you say? I haven't gone through very much of that course, but it seems to be written for an IT literate adult rather than a young child. The exercises aren't particularly difficult, but the language used assumes prior knowledge. How many yr7's know what a compiler is? Or a console for that matter?

I'd definitely have a chat with the teacher - this course is wholly inappropriate. There must be many more suitable online language courses available that could be used instead.

marfisa Fri 13-Jan-17 23:40:16

Thanks so much, Guinevere, that's very good of you to look at the site on my behalf! It's gratifying to have my impressions confirmed.

the language used assumes prior knowledge
Yes, this exactly. The language is quite technical and doesn't seem designed for a total beginner. It's as though someone were trying to learn a foreign language (which is what I teach!) and the lessons all used technical grammatical terms, e.g. 'The gerund in French can have an adjectival status.' grin

Anyway, DS already feels better knowing that the course is meant for adults rather than kids. I'll definitely get in touch with the teacher, as tactfully as possible.

I'm sure there are better computing courses for KS3, but they presumably cost money, whereas this one is free...

I'm still working through the course on my own in an attempt to guide DS, but it's making me quite cross!

SpeakNoWords Fri 13-Jan-17 23:52:40

I'm surprised they've gone for this Sololearn thing when there is Codecademy which is much more suited to children. Although, they are essentially being asked to self learn how to code. Lots of students will find that to be a challenge.

What do they do in their actual lessons in school?

MistressMolecules Sat 14-Jan-17 00:15:13

I haven't looked at site so no advice there but if he needs to learn python "Hello World" is a great starter book for children (and non-coding adults!)

Clavinova Sat 14-Jan-17 10:29:55

We have Carol Vordeman's 'Computer Coding for Kids' which has nearly 100 pages on Python - lots of colourful graphics plus explanations for 'compilers' and 'consoles' etc.

noblegiraffe Sat 14-Jan-17 12:10:25

Please let the school know. Computing teachers are hard to come by so it may be a non-specialist teaching who doesn't appreciate how difficult the homework is, or that there are other more suitable options out there.

MoleculeEmoji Sat 14-Jan-17 12:17:58

Does your ds want to learn to code, or just get through the class? That isn't asked in a snarky way, just some kids are genuinely not interested in coding, and that's ok.

If he does, go to codecademy and work through their python modules. Then go back to the solo and see if it makes more sense. If it is relying on a foundation he doesn't have then putting this foundation in place may help.

KittyVonCatsington Sat 14-Jan-17 22:30:56

I am a Computer Science teacher and teach Year 7. I have never heard of Sololearn and just took a look. Module 7 Object Oriented Programming. Regular Expressions? This is Year 13 material. Is the teacher nuts?

And whilst Codecademy is fun and an 'add on', the teacher should not been just relying on pupils going through online courses without any 'teaching'.
Your poor DS OP, this will put him right off. This is one instance where I would wholeheartedly back you up in querying this with the teacher.

marfisa Sat 14-Jan-17 23:06:16

Oh wow I love MN, thanks everyone! So many helpful comments here.

Kitty: Year 13 -- really? shock
I feel vindicated and will definitely take this up with the teacher. noblegiraffe [waves to you!], I'll also cc in the head of year. Apparently there is another Year 7 IT teacher whose class ISN'T using Sololearn and whose pupils are much happier.

I'm not sure what the teacher has been doing in class (DS is not very chatty when it comes to describing what happens in his classes!). But whatever it is, it's not helping DS get to grips with coding.

Thanks so much for the helpful recs: Codecademy, Hello World and the Carol Vordeman book. I will definitely check them out. In answer to your question, Molecule, I think DS's primary aim is just to get through the class. But to tell the truth I think he might well become interested in coding if the material were presented in a more accessible way. That's one reason I'm so cross with this teacher, because he has essentially made DS think that he hates IT and is bad at it, whereas actually that might not be the case.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone, I feel much more empowered now about taking this up with the school.

marfisa Sun 15-Jan-17 00:27:41

OK, I've crafted a polite but hopefully hard-hitting email, including just a couple of specific examples of how difficult completely over DS's head not to mention mine as well the vocabulary in Sololearn can be. Have sent it to the teacher and also to the head of year as well, just to give her a heads-up.

I'll update if I receive any interesting responses next week!

KittyVonCatsington Sun 15-Jan-17 08:15:02

Yes keep us updated!

Marianer Thu 19-Jan-17 09:02:06

I use SoloLearn myself to learn some coding. i didn't have any programming background and I must say the first modules are really easy and game-like. It gets more and more complicated as you go. But it's an excellent way to get your feet wet. I have seen groups of schoolchildren in the community who use it as a supplementary to their classes. So my guess is teacher has assigned the first modules only to let kids have fun by learning while playing a game.

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