In elementary school, in middle school and in high school, the most popular time for many LCPS students this past week wasn’t recess or lunch or meeting friends between class. It was writing computer code.
The annual Hour of Code, the centerpiece of Technology Week for students at more than 92,000 sites around the world, engaged the STEM class at Rochelle Middle, the critical thinking class at Banks Elementary and the Biomedical Technology class at Kinston High to the point that the end of class was an unwelcome interruption.
“One student told me, ‘I could do this all day,’” Rochelle principal Felicia Solomon said.
In Shannarra Barrow’s STEM lab there, students showed the kind of focus they usually apply to video games – not a surprise once you understand that these coding exercises are a lot like gaming.
“They are learning how to give functions and give commands to the programs they’re running right now,” Barrow said. “The video games they play, they just know the different commands to give the computer; but now they’re seeing how the programmers make things move. They are learning the logic behind the game.”
As Mary Beth Roberts explains to students in her critical thinking classes at Banks Elementary, coding is the backbone of today’s technological society. “We’ve talked about computer science and how it’s used to solve world problems. We’ve talked about algorithms and how they have to have different steps to complete a task. Coding is when we’re putting the algorithms together.”
Students used QR codes to choose which of the four games they would use for the coding session. By inputting commands into their iPads they were able – maybe after a false start or two – to get from the starting point to the end line. “They have to use critical thinking problem-solving skills to finish each little task, just like a game they’re used to playing. Persistence is our big vocabulary word,” Roberts said.
This is the third year she has brought coding exercises into her classes, both “unplugged” exercises on paper and the iPad games, and she felt confident enough this year to make kindergarten students part of Hour of Code.
At Kinston High, Crystall Patton-Demry bridged the gap between computer science and biomedical technology. Turns out it’s a pretty small gap.
“Many health care equipments, treatment and science deal with some form of programming,” she said. “Today our students in Biomedical Technology I got to experience how it feels to become the programmer instead of just the person using the equipment or just playing the virtual games.”
Students say it feels pretty good.
“It was really fun,” first-time coder and third grader Graycyn Murphy said as she left Roberts’ class. “You get to play games and make stuff how you want it.”
(To see Banks Elementary first graders learn coding with Bee Bots, click here.)