Chaparral students learn about computer programming. (Photo by Kelli Gile)
Chaparral Middle School students had an opportunity to explore computer programming during the Hour of Code last month. Over 10,000 students throughout the United States will join the Hour of Code during the 2013 Computer Science Education Week.
The new event is geared at generating awareness and meaningful exposure to the world of computer science.
“Every Chaparral student received an introductory one-hour lesson and a chance to try coding during their math classes,” Math and Technology Teacher Denise Loera said.
“Today, we are all surrounded by technology. Commerce, communication, entertainment and more, we all rely of computers. Yet, very few of us know how they actually work,” according to the code.org website.
“Computer science education is an increasingly important foundation for success, and everybody can benefit from learning the basics,” Loera added.
Chaparral 6th -8th grade students logged in a total of 1,297 hours of coding during the event.
“The Hour of Code was tremendous. It was well received by staff and students alike. Mrs. Loera and our Math Department got behind the idea to do this and our kids ran with it. This is a perfect example of what happens when teachers challenge their students with creative activities that motivate them to go outside of what they already know,” said Principal Ron Thibodeaux.
Chaparral students used Netbooks, HP Desktops, and Chromebooks as they worked through different levels of introductory programming.
The Hour of Code allowed students to program codes designed for students by engineers at Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Khan Academy and others.
All of the math teachers at Chaparral worked as a team to launch a successful Hour of Code in their classes. The educators previewed and then practiced their own coding skills before presenting it to students.
No previous experience was required for the self-guided activities that empowered students to learn coding at their own pace.
They were able to use Light-Bot, CodeAvengers, Scratch-Angry Birds and Khan Academy.
Students in Loera’s 7th grade math class worked individually and helped each other during the tutorial. They also had lots of questions for their tech-savvy teacher.
“Coding teaches them to think and collaborate,” she added.
Students were immediately engaged as they logged in and began working on the level one coding patterns.
“There’s this little light bulb code button that lights up the blue squares. I just feel like it really challenges you because it’s all about putting yourself in the robot’s position,” said Jeffrey Ortega.
“It tells you how many moves we have and how many boxes we have to light,” he explained.
“We’re opening up the opportunity for them to be curious.” Loera said.
The students also learned that careers in computer science are among the highest paid college degrees and computer-programming jobs are growing at two times the national average.
“Although it’s one of the highest paying careers, we have a shortage of coders,” Loera added.
In just an hour, some of the students could see a future career in coding.
“I’d like to work at Google,” said Loretta Cheng, age 12.
Cheng said she has always liked computers, but never thought she would be coding. And she liked it.
“I’m home. I’m challenged right now,” the 7th grader added.
Brenna Crandall, age 12, was also excited about the new adventure of coding. She said she’d like to work at Facebook.
“It’s not just about the money. I like coding because I’m good with technology. It’s so simple for me,” she said.
“I’ve always liked building. This is a lot more interesting than playing a game or going shopping,” Crandall added.
The students also found out they could practice coding at home.
“I’m encouraging them to share this coding experience with their parents, brothers, and/or sisters,” their teacher said.
Loera also advises an after-school Coding Club that meets each Thursday. The members served as student advisors during the Hour of Code.
“All of our Coding Club members did a fantastic job supporting the math teachers and students with any troubleshooting and simply providing a positive experience in coding,” Loera said.
There are approximately 20 students in regular attendance for the Coding Club, yet only three are females.
“To me, that goes parallel with the worldwide published data. There are not enough programmers going into this field and there are certainly not enough females. One of the Microsoft founders announced that there is a shortage of computer programmers, predominately females. And although the universities are offering these courses, it is unfortunate that they’re not filling up,” Loera said.
At the end of the hour Loera gave several students candy for breaking the code.
“It took me this long to finish, but I finally did it,” Linda Beltran said.
“I feel so happy!” exclaimed Stephanie Quan.