Students learn computer coding from the pros

This week, students at Mountain View Middle School are learning from billionaires.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are just a few of the guests sharing with students the importance of coding as part of Computer Science Education Week. But they’re educating students through technology, of course. In pre-recorded video messages, celebrities offered their take on learning computer programming and coding. Then students were offered a way to solve simple problems using coding taught via video by famous faces like Zuckerberg.

The curriculum is known as the “Hour of Code,” a nationwide educational initiative to encourage student interest in the field of computer science. The event takes place from Dec. 9 to 15 throughout schools in the United States. According to the Computer Science Education Week website, more than six million students have learned simple coding through the program.

The choice for the school to participate was easy, said Rosemary Farley, an eighth grade school counselor in the Bremerton School District.

“These guys live in a totally different world,” she said of the students. “While they’re doing something that’s like a video game to them, they’re learning life long skills.”

Mountain View Middle School staff found out about the training through eighth-grade student Alexis Ewan. The 13-year-old had previously taken coding classes and received an email alerting her about the educational opportunity. In turn, she forwarded it to her guidance counselor and asked if it was something the whole school could participate in.

“It kinda blew my mind that this actually happened,” she said. “I’m glad people are learning code because it’s something good to know. A lot of career choices require code.”

It’s the first year the school has participated in the event, Farley noted. And while many students own multiple technological gadgets, many don’t truly understand how each works, Farley said, furthering the belief that the lessons could be practical and important.

But some do, like advanced technology students at the school, who learn coding early on like Ewan did. The coding instruction offered throughout the week was purposely scheduled during English classes for a reason, Farley said.

“In the same way English is their language, code is going to be their language too,” she said., the website that provides the instructional material, is a non-profit organization with a vision “that computer science should be part of the core curriculum in every school, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra,” states the site.

While the overall training is beneficial, it benefitted different students in various ways. For some, it was their first time being exposed to technology on a micro level. For the more advanced students, the training reenforced what they already know since they were allowed to act as teaching aides and assist peers with questions.

Ewan, who is a teaching assistant for the week, said she enjoys showing her peers easier ways to code. She also hopes she’ll inspire fellow students to look deeper into coding for possible future jobs.

“I hope they get the motivation themselves to get into the different languages of code,” she said. “I think it’s a good representation of what  you can do with code. The people on those screens are billionaires and learn code.”

Computer technology teacher Rod Harris said he loves that students are able to get involved at such a young age. Now is the time to learn it, he said.

“My favorite part is my advanced kids are teaching it. They’re going into the labs and doing hands-on (activities) and teaching it,” he said.

Some of those very same students act as the IT team for teachers at the school. Technology students frequently troubleshoot problems that they’ve learned about in the classroom, he said.

“All of a sudden I see kids learning what programming is when they see people who made the programs they use talking about it,” he said. “I’m hoping it will open kids’ eyes up.”

Ewan, the student who spearheaded it, said the joy for her comes in knowing the basics of computers and the Internet. Prior to Computer Science Education Week, Ewan viewed the material online to prep for the questions to come, solid proof of her desire to learn more.

With her skills, Ewan hopes to one day be a mathematician, which could be why coding comes so naturally for her.

“It’s kinda easy once you know what you’re doing,” she said.


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