Wednesday, 9 December 2015

JC students get techie with Hour of Code

She was one of about 20 Johnson City Intermediate School fourth-graders whose eyes lit up as they solved a puzzle involving "Star Wars" characters and creating computer code to move objects.Now Lilly says she's inspired to learn more about computer coding and programming, possibly from her grandfather, who works at Lockheed Martin, she said."I thought coding was going to be, like, boring numbers and math, but it is actually really fun to do," said Lilly, from Johnson City.

Lilly and her class were among students worldwide Tuesday participating in free online coding tutorials geared toward K-12 students through the event Hour of Code.The event has the grassroots campaign goal of encouraging students worldwide to spend an hour each day learning about coding from Dec. 7 to 13 as part of Computer Science Education Week. The nonprofit computer science education advocacy organization runs the Hour of Code. The organization launched in 2013 to expand K-12 student access to computer science education — specifically aiming to increase diversity in computer science careers, according to the About 40 classes in the Johnson City Primary and Intermediate Schools will participate at various time during the week, said Adam Frys, Johnson City's K-5 math and science specialist.Students in most other local districts are taking advantage of the Hour of Code tutorial throughout the week, including several schools in the Binghamton, Vestal, Owego-Apalachin, Maine-Endwell and Union-Endicott districts.At Maine-Endwell High School, after students learn about coding Wednesday and Thursday, they will put their skills to the test using coding to command a small responsive robot named Dash to complete an obstacle course, said Rick Bray, an educational technology specialist with Broome Tioga BOCES who will instruct students during the event.When students entered the computer lab in Johnson City Intermediate School on Tuesday morning for their Hour of Code, Frys enthusiastically told them they were among 150 million others worldwide participating in the online, interactive tutorial.Frys said he decided to introduce the Hour of Code this year into Johnson City district classrooms to help students learn at a young age how coding, and the math and science skills they are learning in other classes through Common Core standards, are relevant to careers and solving future societal problems."We wanted to add some authenticity and context," he said. "It also promotes computational and algorithmic thinking."Frys said he hopes introducing computer coding to younger students will create an earlier interest in computer science careers among those who are under-represented in the field, such as women. According to, on average, only 18 percent of U.S. computer science classes are female and 8 percent black or Hispanic. Women also earn only about 18 percent of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology."There is this huge discrepancy, and I think starting events like this when they are young can hopefully create equity," he said.Learning coding can "level the playing field" for students who have disabilities as well, Frys said, considering most students come in with a similar background knowledge of coding regardless of levels of learning.Lacey Skorupa, a co-teacher of the fourth-grade integrated class at Johnson City Intermediate School that participated in the Hour of Code on Tuesday morning, said she thinks the event is a valuable way to engage students at all educational levels in an activity that promotes higher-level thinking."It's a chance for them to work through sequencing and problem-solve independently," she said.As Johnson City fourth-graders wrapped up their Hour of Code Thursday, Skorupa said that although it is a very brief introduction to computer science, she thinks it will have a long-term effect on students."These are the types of opportunities they are going to remember, talk about at home and get excited for in possible career paths," she said. "I absolutely hope it continues and we are able to be a part of it again in the future."

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