Humans of Code Week – Professor Samuel Branco, Leading Teacher Portugal

What sparked your interest in coding / Code Week?

When I was 11 years old I received, as a gift, a Sinclair ZXSpectrum 48k. At first, I used it mainly for gaming. When playing, I got more curios and wanted to understand how the games were programmed.

One day I was given a magazine that contained code to create some games. So, the first game I created was the hangman game, programmed with the Basic language. Later, when I was in high school, I enrolled in the Professional Technical Course in Management Information Technology and I never stopped programming.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn/teach programming?

For those who want to learn to program, I think you should start with block programming and make small stories, pick up objects, or do maze games and quizzes. You can use Scratch, Pictoblox or Makeblock. You can learn through examples shared on the platform or by viewing videos on YouTube. There are also many projects/clubs where beginners can have their first contact with programming in a supported and guided way.

Pictoblox and Makeblock allow you to program sensors and actuators and create robotics-related projects. They can therefore be more motivating! Tinkercad Circuits, in addition to programming electronic components by blocks, allows you to visualize the code in a textual language and simulate circuit programming.

For those who want to teach programming, I think the steps are basically the same. I first teach you how to program small games in Scratch, so that those who want to learn become familiar with what each block does and with their categories. Then I show them the Arduino board, some sensors and actuators and teach them how to program these electronic components. Later, I encourage them to program with Arduino IDE the same elements, which is a textual language based on Linguagen C, which is the base language for many other languages.

What do you like most about Code Week?

As I really like programming and I value the skills (problem solving, critical thinking, resilience, computational thinking…) that people can develop through coding. What I like most about Code Week is to feel the involvement of so many people stimulating activities and to feel the enthusiasm of the students carrying out the same.

It is increasingly a week of sharing between teachers from different countries, in which, more and more, students from one country carry out activities built by teachers from other countries. There are also more and more activities that involve several countries, which allows students to develop skills other than the inherent ones, such as the ability to communicate in another language and knowledge of other cultures. I always get the feeling that Code Week goes by too fast and that it should last longer.

How do you imagine the future of Code Week will be?

I imagine that there will be face-to-face events at national level and others that involve several countries. Let them not be events of a competitive nature but of teaching, training, learning and sharing, in a festive atmosphere! And that involve different age groups, because I think that students learn much more from older ones.

What challenges did you encounter in your role as Leading teacher and how did you overcome them?

As a Leading teacher, the main challenge I encountered was motivating more colleagues to participate in Code Week and conveying to them the importance of programming for the development of the way of learning, knowledge and skills of students. Fortunately, as I am a teacher trainer, I have been able to streamline training courses, workshops and webinars where I share my experience, discuss strategies and plan activities together with trainees.

What are the top three reasons why everyone/children should learn to code?

By learning to program people develop skills at the following level:

– reasoning and problem solving,

– critical thinking and creative thinking,

– and personal development and autonomy.

How can interested people contribute to Code Week?

Interested people can promote their own activities, collaborate in promoting the activities of others, help promote activities of others, provide spaces where activities can be carried out, … Activities must be registered on the official Code Week website, so that we can to know what activities each country organizes and it is also a way of getting others to organize activities as well.

Which Code Week related activity are you most proud of and why?

I really like to organize activities that involve programming and robotics. Robotics allows you to create projects that have some use or solve a real problem. It motivates students a lot to see their project being used by others. With robotics, students, in addition to learning to program, get to know how some sensors and actuators work. This allows students to enhance the development of the aforementioned competences.

What coding related advice did you receive most inspired you and why?

The advice that inspired me the most was given to me by the teacher who taught me the first programming language. She told me that to learn to program it was necessary to try and fail many times. And so every time I couldn’t finish or complete a program at school I would go home and try until I made it. To program it is necessary to have confidence, autonomy and to be resilient. Of course, with experience the number of attempts required decreases!