It’s an event being held nationwide, and also happening within the North Colonie school district. The week of December 8-12 marks “Computer Science Education Week”, with schools around the country participating in “The Hour of Code.” It’s a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to help students understand code and show that anybody can learn the basics.
Latham Ridge Elementary second grade teacher, Angela Stadnik, says she just started coding with her students a few weeks ago.
“It was a transformative moment for me,” said Stadnik. “I saw my students problem solving in ways they don’t normally get to do, and helping each other in productive ways.”
Stadnik then began the initiative to organize an entire day of code, to coincide with Computer Science Education Week. Students in grades K-6 will all have the opportunity to log on to code.org and explore coding through different, age appropriate tutorials.
“The theory is not to get all students to be computer programmers when they grow up, but I think it’s important for them to just try it,” said Stadnik. “It gives them a better idea of how computers work, and that it’s not just this magic that is behind the scenes.”
During some of the hours of code, Latham Ridge students had the opportunity to work with 2011 Shaker graduate and current RPI computer science major, Joshua Goldberg. In addition to being a programmer, Goldberg has already landed a job at Microsoft. He is currently an ambassador for the company, working with Shaker High School Coding Club students on a weekly basis. This week, he went back to the elementary school he attended to pass on his knowledge to the younger students.
“I want to get them excited,” said Goldberg. “Programming is something you can do a lot of really cool things with. It’s a great career choice.”
At Shaker Junior High School, a similar scene is happening all week for every seventh and eighth grade student. Teacher Tracy Maynard organized lab periods for students to participate in the hour of code. Using Code.org to begin, students are led through the process of programming, giving characters a set of commands in order to reach an ultimate goal. The commands get more and more difficult, and students are challenged to figure out how to use shortcuts.
“Kids don’t have enough opportunities built into the traditional curriculum to play with code and explore code, but it’s such a big part of our daily adult lives,” said Maynard. “The more hands-on chances we can give them to play with it and explore it, the more chances they have to find out if it’s for them.”
During the hours of code, K-12 Technology Specialist, Gary Cimorelli, is working with teachers on how to use Google Docs. Cimorelli says the theory is while students are learning the power of code, teachers are learning the power of Google Docs, simultaneously building the level of technology skills on all levels.
Stadnik says the ultimate goal of the entire week is for everyone involved to walk away with a better understanding of how to solve problems.
“That is a life skill that they will take into whatever career they choose,” she said. “It’s neat to think this could be a changing point in their lives.”
For a photo gallery of students participating in the hour of code, click here.