An “Hour of Code” could have long lasting benefits

Our elementary school students are already tech savvy. Here, Jennifer O’Dougherty works with students in our after-school Excel Program on the finer points of Blockly software programming.
Our elementary school students are already tech savvy. Here, Jennifer O’Dougherty works with students in our after-school Excel Program on the finer points of Blockly software programming.
Whitman teacher Richard Schmidt works with his students, helping them achieve the results they are looking for.
Whitman teacher Richard Schmidt works with his students, helping them achieve the results they are looking for.
Oakwood students had no problem grasping the basics of programming and loved the immediate results that they could see and share with friends.
Oakwood students had no problem grasping the basics of programming and loved the immediate results that they could see and share with friends.
At Oakwood, getting the hang of the building block approach to ‘Hour of Code’ starts with some basics on the SmartBoard.
At Oakwood, getting the hang of the building block approach to ‘Hour of Code’ starts with some basics on the SmartBoard.
Maplewood teacher Mr. Anthony Fauci loves how ‘Hour of Code’ presents coding information in a fun, kid-friendly manner to his students.
Maplewood teacher Mr. Anthony Fauci loves how ‘Hour of Code’ presents coding information in a fun, kid-friendly manner to his students.

With qualified job candidates for computer programming positions at a critical low point, Code.org, a public 501c3 nonprofit, has been leading a grassroots campaign to get students to try an “hour of code” in celebration of Computer Science Education Week. The Hour of Code is a global movement that is now reaching tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries.

Billed as the largest learning event in history, the Hour of Code has brought together an unprecedented coalition of partners to support the effort, including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the College Board. Last year over 15 million students tried Hour of Code in one week. This year, a lofty goal of 100 million students worldwide was drawn.

In South Huntington, students from preschool through high school participated in this unique learning experience. Ms. Jennifer O’Dougherty, a speech-language pathologist and assistive technology specialist, introduced the program to the district. “Our students will be using “Blockly,” which is a drag-and-drop visual software programming tool,” said Ms. O'Dougherty.  “For the preschool students, simple puzzles introduce Blockly's shapes and show how they snap together to write programs.”

“Getting some exposure to the basic mechanics of computer programming got very creative this year,” said Walt Whitman mathematics teacher Mr. Richard Schmidt. “Two tutorials were created for students to choose from. The Disney movie “Frozen” and the popular game Angry Birds create a user-friendly atmosphere that shows creative results instantly.”

Students, through trial and error, quickly understood the concepts of the tutorials, and once they create right before their own eyes, they’re empowered to keep learning. The basics of computer science help nurture creativity and problem-solving skills. Technology and software historically suffer from a lack of diversity and the Hour of Code is a first step in fixing this, showing all students what computer science is all about.

“We live in a world surrounded by technology,” said Oakwood’s math lab and literacy support teachers Ms. Alice Macner and Ms. Beth Borland. “Our students’ ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works,” said Ms. Borland. Whitman’s Mr. Richard Schmidt agrees with colleagues at Oakwood. “Hour of Code is very visual and fun and might spark a few students to be more interested in computer programming and to seek a career in that field, and that’s the whole point,” he said.

 

“Whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed in technology is crucial,” said Oakwood teacher Ms. Donna Farkas. “The Hour of Code initiative touched each grade level in the district with wonderful results. One of the reasons why I wanted to get involved with this program was because of its ability to connect learning with enjoyment,” said Maplewood fourth-grade teacher Mr. Anthony Fauci. “Computer science is a difficult concept that many students would not choose to learn about. Code.org presents this information in a fun, kid-friendly manner. The program eases students into the coding process, concluding with the creation of their own app or game.” Also at Maplewood, the Hour of Code program was made available to our Excel program students, and the response was enthusiastic. At Stimson Middle School, teacher Mr. Ryan Rentz utilized the graphic nature of the Blockly programming interface to inspire his special education students.

This one-hour activity capitalizes on the many hours that some of our students are already involved in when it comes to the exciting world of computer coding. Bringing this opportunity to all of our students through Hour of Code is not only exciting, but could also open a bright new future with tremendous career potential.

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