Crackin’ the code: Declo students learn computer programming: DECLO — Declo Junior High School Teacher Kathy Bennett is making sure all seventh graders at her school have an introduction to computer programming.
“This is all about problem-solving, and it’s what the workforce will demand from these kids,” Bennett said.
On April 6, Bennett’s class learned how to program code into the computer to make animated figures called sprites move. Seventh-grader Collin Wells toggled between computer screens typing in commands and then watching how the command animated a bee on his screen.
“I really like this class because we get to learn how to really use the computer,” Wells said.
By the end of the course section, the students will develop a simple video game.
“If you would have said to me five years ago that I’d be teaching computer science, I’d have said, no way,” Bennett said.
Bennett, who piloted the Code.org curriculum in her class last year, is one of a handful of Idaho teachers to utilize the refined version of the Computer Science Discoveries class this year.
“It’s mandatory for seventh graders at this school,” Bennett said. “I felt it was vital for these students to be introduced to it.”
The Idaho Legislature unanimously passed H648 this session, which will go into effect on July 1 that mandates all Idaho high schools offer at least one computer science course to students in grades 9-12 starting in 2020.
Bennett said children as young as kindergarten can begin learning simplistic versions of computer programming.
“I’ve used it with my grandson,” she said. “You don’t want to bombard them but they can learn some of the basics.”
According to Code.org, woman and minorities are poorly represented in computer science fields.
In Idaho, there are 1,422 open computing jobs and the average salary for the occupation is $71,648, which is higher than the average state salary of $41,910. Idaho had only 333 computer science graduates in 2015—only 13 percent were female.
“It’s fun to learn new stuff,” Declo seventh-grader Lorelie Dayle said. “If I have to create a website, later on, I will know how.”
In the class, Dayley was most surprised by how easy she found it.
In Bennett’s class, students progress through units that teach problem-solving, web development and interactive games and animations. Other units include design process, data and society and physical computing.
In the past, computer students spent any computer time mainly performing keyboard activities, Bennett said.
Para-educator Amy Schenk said Bennett’s class uses a different way of thinking.
“It makes them think out of the box,” Schenk said. “There is a lot of work that goes into it that many people don’t realize.”
Bennett said it is vital for students today to learn computer programming skills.
“It is the future and it is what all the jobs will be,” Bennett said.
Code.org offers the curriculum and professional development for teachers for free. Teacher training is also available through the STEM Action Center, which partners with Code.org.
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