Students in the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District joined other kids around the world by participating in the Hour of Code, an international initiative to celebrate Computer Science Education Week.
“The goal is to get as many students around the world exposed to computer programming,” said Shelia Bowman, technology and 21st century integration teacher on special assignment for the Re-4 district.
Bowman said more than 1,100 students, ranging from preschoolers to high schoolers in the district participated in the Hour of Code last week. They spent an hour of class time on computer programming. Bowman said the Hour of Code was largely funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bowman said this is the first time for the Hour of Code, and politicians, athletes and other celebrities have endorsed the concept in which more than 5 million kids participated. Bowman said she can see schools in the district offering after-school enrichment computer coding clubs such as one that exists at Grandview and one that will start soon at Skyview Elementary School of STEM.
“It has all kind of coding lessons that are self-guided and students can walk themselves through,” Bowman said. “It’s showing them the basics that coding is just building blocks. It’s learning another language, and how people talk to computers.”
This kind of coding is not your father’s coding where nerdy computer programmers sat in front of computers and wrote coding that looked like a foreign language.
“That’s the myth we’re trying to dispel,” Bowman said. “After this week, we’ve realized you don’t have to be an engineer, you don’t have to be a scientist, you don’t have to be a mathematician to be great at computer coding. There is such a bright future for kids that choose to pursue that. We just want to introduce it to them.”
Bowman said the students bought into the Hour of Code, and were excited to participate.
“What I’ve noticed is that once the kids get their headphones on, you can hear a pin drop in the room except for about every few minutes you hear a, ‘Yes!’ or a ‘Whoo-Hoo!’ They’re just so engaged. We can’t ignore the fact that gaming is a part of their lives,” Bowman said. “The kids were born into this (technology) world. This is what they know, and this is what they do after school and on the weekends. Technology is just a part of their lives. Hour of Code is just going to give them another avenue in the world of technology to be successful 21st century learners and contributors.”
Sarah Lobitz, technology teacher at Grandview, said Hour of Code gave the students an awareness of the computer science field and the opportunities out there.
“We’re trying to educate kids in those opportunities. It’s amazing this week how many kids have come back and said, ‘I went home and spent another half hour writing more lines of code.’ ” Lobitz said.
Grandview fourth-grader Aly Easter said she likes to be challenged on the computer.
“It’s important because this can help us when we’re older and doing stuff on the computer,” Aly said.
Nolan Lightfoot, a fourth-grader at Grandview, said the Hour of Code was an enjoyable lesson.
“It’s fun to see what you can do and to see what code you’re putting into the computer and see what it can do,” Nolan said. “I like this. This is fun.”
Grandview fourth-grade teacher Mike Fotsch said the kids were very excited about the Hour of Code.
“When they actually see what goes into creating these programs, it makes them appreciate it more,” Fotsch said. “It’s the whole 21st century skills that they have to use now.”
Parent volunteer Dayne Medlyn has been running the after-school coding club at Grandview this year. He said there are eight kids in the club, but expects it to increase in numbers because of the Hour of Code.
“The fun part is watching them take basic principles and then create some pretty interesting things,” said Medlyn, a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard.