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Eastland Takes on the Hour of Code!

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Submitted by Lou Ann Wilkens

Hour of Code is an initiative to introduce students to computer programming. Often, there are preconceived ideas that programming is boring, hard, and unattainable by most people. By setting aside the time to have all students work with interesting and engaging computer programming tutorials, we have exposed them to this opportunity and hopefully refuted these notions. “The Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to try computer science for one hour. During Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-15), we’re making history and recruiting 10 million to join in and do the Hour of Code.”

Eastland kindergarten through twelfth graders participated in the Hour of Code during the week of December 9-12. The Hour of Code was designed to give every student an opportunity to code (do computer programming) for an hour during Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15). The Hour of Code included programming activities for all ages. Kindergarten through fifth grade participated during their computer classes. Sixth grade programmed during a Math class. The seventh through twelfth grades used two learning labs for their hour of code. One of the favorite tutorials of the elementary students was Angry Birds, a popular game that many had played. The students now were able to program instructions to move the angry bird to the nasty pig. They learned to think through the problem, and debug any errors when their bird ran into a wall instead of finding the path to the pig. They used loops for repetitive actions and even conditional programming to have their bird make a choice to turn left or right. The younger students worked on tutorial “games” where they were able to drag specially designed code blocks to move a puppy to his treats by running and jumping over obstacles. Choices for the older students included computer art, creating apps for a phone, and using other programming languages.

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“Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation.”

Programming teaches problem solving and perseverance. It has been shown that computer science classes improve math scores. The hour of code creates an opportunity for students to participate in little bit of computer science, a field that is predicted to have a shortage of 1 million computer science graduates by 2020. Nine out of ten schools do not offer computer programming classes. Graduates with computer science skills are needed in many facets of industry including information technology, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, entertainment, financial services, and many more.

At Eastland we teach programming in Scratch to fifth graders as part of their computer class. Scratch was developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide a way for ages 8-16 to create interactive stories, games, and animations by using coding blocks. In junior high, seventh graders begin programming with 3-D objects using Alice for one quarter as part of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculum. Alice was created by Carnegie-Mellon to have student program with objects in a fun and appealing environment. This year the high school is offering Computer Programming with Alice (more advanced than the 7th grade class) as a semester elective. These are great opportunities for Eastland students.

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Teachers that helped make this possible are Stephanie Higley, Rachel Todd, Becky Roethe, and JSHS Learning Lab teachers. Eric Haan and Hunter Allspaugh, Eastland’s Technology gurus, helped make it easier for students to access the programming tutorials.

Hour of Code had a goal of 10 million students around the world coding during the Computer Science Education week. As of Thursday morning the Hour of Code had reached their 10 million mark.

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