Programming is naturally cross-disciplinary. How do you implement this multi-faceted approach and why is it such a good one?
What is the cross-disciplinary approach?
Cross-disciplinary learning occurs when learning activities overlap across disciplines but remain connected by a single subject that they share. In other words, topics are studied by applying methodologies of unrelated disciplines. The authors of one study on cross-disciplinary learning use genetics as an example. Genetics have their roots in several disciplines – biology, chemistry, math, health studies, and so on.
The studying of programming is not much different. While it might at first look seem to be no more than typing lines of incomprehensible text onto a screen, the reality is very different. Coding is a way of creating things, of solving problems and offering new solutions. It can even be thought of as a form of literacy, similar to that of any other language.
Our cross-disciplinary selves
These days, people seldom devote their life to just one profession. Solutions to problems are not created within one discipline. Innovations arise in groups and networks. We travel between disciplines, we incorporate this and that kind of thinking into our job, in what has also been described as the multi-hyphen method. This is especially true for the creative sphere. Our way of work is cross-disciplinary. Therefore, learning should mirror this trend and take on a similar approach. Especially if it’s about something as creative as programming.
Coding transgresses into several disciplines. Besides the obvious, IT, it touches upon subjects like art, maths, or languages. Since coding is implemented across the board, students are nowadays encouraged to study it as more than just an IT field but to also dip their toes in the fields that they can directly affect as programmers. Social sciences, in particular.
Robo Wunderkind across disciplines
Educators working with Robo Wunderkind have been pretty creative in its use. Some use it in their IT classes, language courses, art classes, and even math lessons. Other, such as Get Your Wings, take things even further and teach complex subjects like digital literacy with Robo. Others, like Marc Faulder, ADE, play football matches with teams of different robots or implement Robo in well-known children’s tales to inspire their pupils’ creativity – such as when Robo helps Little Red Riding Hood find her way out of the forest.
This approach leads children to be more resourceful, creative, more tech-literate. It allows them to look at problems from different perspectives and apply original solutions across the board. Using the findings of another study, coding can help develop a child’s multimodal authoring skills because it encourages them to be critical to media features, design, experiment and even to play. This effect has been regarded as particularly strong when teaching programming through story-telling, which is what the Robo Wunderkind curriculum does.
Crossing disciplines seems to be our future. In order to prepare children for such a world, we can start teaching them how to look at things from a wider perspective and how to apply common solutions to different problems and areas of interest at an early age. Coding seems to be a great way to do it – and Robo Wunderkind seems to be a wonderful helper.