By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Hour of Code Opens Computer Science World to Students

 

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Seeley Lake Elementary fourth graders participating in the National Hour of Code.

SEELEY LAKE - This past week many students and teachers at Seeley Lake Elementary (SLE) were decorated with stickers that read: Hour of Code. SLE Technology teacher Michele Holmes had all of her students participating in the national program entitled Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 7-13. It is a global movement with more than 100 million learners in 196 countries with the goal of introducing students to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

In China, every student takes computer science to graduate high school. In the U.S., 90 percent of schools don't even teach it. The Hour of Code is an effort to help American schools catch up to the 21st century. Hour of Code organizers said in a press release, "Regardless of what students do when they grow up, whether they go into medicine, business, politics, or the arts, knowing how to build technology will give them the confidence and know-how to succeed."


Holmes has been teaching coding in her classroom since she became the SLE technology teacher in 2005.

"I want to expose kids to the option," said Holmes. "I loved what one of the posters said quoting President Obama, 'Don't just use a computer, program a computer."

Since Holmes does not have a computer science degree, finding curriculum and programs to support her desire to expose her students to coding is the key to successfully teaching it. After participating in the Hour of Code last year, she had several students who were interested in learning more.

With the help from the 21st Century grant, Holmes led a coding club this November. They met twice per week for an hour and a half each time and used CS First Google, free computer science enrichment materials.

Holmes explained that the students were put in 12 different 'camps' based on interest and skill level. Through movies and videos, the students worked at their pace to complete the different tasks and earned sticker badges when they completed each task. There were solution sheets for her so she could help trouble shoot with the kids.

"The kids loved it and they completely excelled," said Holmes.

There were several students who participated in the Coding Club in the SLE fourth grade class that did the Hour of Code Thursday, Dec. 10. When Holmes asked the students from the club if coding was always easy, they quickly replied, "No." When she asked if it was always fun, the students quickly and loudly replied, "Yes!"


After watching a quick introductory tutorial on the initial tasks for the Hour of Code, the students were sent to their individual computers to work at their own pace. Holmes also told them, "Try things. Test it. Tweak it but don't get frustrated."

Fourth-grader Ava Thornsberry participated in the Coding Club. "I like coding because it is really fun," said Thornsberry. "You get to make things. It gives you one piece of the puzzle and then you need to figure out the rest."

Hunter Davenport likes everything about coding. However his favorite part is making his own game and then getting to play the game he made.

Tyler Haines stopped working through his levels just long enough to say, "[Coding] is not always easy, sometimes you have to go through something hard. I feel relieved when I get through the challenge."

Holmes has seen students who do not excel in other areas of academics, latch onto coding and get to a point of teaching their peers. "Coding is a different thought process than other subjects," said Holmes.

The videos provided with the Hour of Code also allow her to connect computer skills, like keyboarding, that students are not excited to learn about, to real-world application for those skills. The students watch professionals talking about how they use coding and computers daily to make movies, mix soundtracks, do animation and run a business.


Holmes said, "This is an awesome new tool to open up doors."

 

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