Students get ahead of the game with computer coding

Natalie Netzel Staff Writer

December 18, 2013

Natalie Netzel

Staff Writer

NEWBERRY COUNTY — Elementary through high school students were brought up to speed on computer coding during Computer Science Education Week last week in seven of Newberry County’s schools.

The schools that participated included Career Center, Boundary Street Elementary, Mid-Carolina Middle, Little Mountain Elementary, Whitmire Community, Prosperity-Rikard Elementary and Pomaria-Garmany Elementary.

Tami Stewart, Newberry County Career Center’s business and technology instructor, brought the Hour of Code to the attention of the district so that any student could have the opportunity to learn about coding.

“As a country, 90 percent of the schools do not teach any code. In 2020, there will be jobs that will need to be filled but can’t because we aren’t teaching about programming (overall as a nation),” said Stewart.

“Newberry is advanced in what we teach,” said Stewart in reference to computer science courses taught. She said her classes uses Adobe CSX which is a top software.

“We are trying to move students from being consumers to being the creators. We will be at a disadvantage if we don’t push this,” said Stewart about the need for more computer science instruction.

Stewart compared coding to a foreign language saying, “It’s like learning a new language. It’s a different kind of literacy.”

The Hour of Code was brought out of the grassroots organization to try and get more computer literacy in the school systems, Stewart said.

The effort was backed by Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, President Barack Obama and other government administrators as well as celebrities, according to Stewart. There was a push for 10 million students across the country to participate in the Hour of Code which was met later in the week.

Stewart explained that the tutorials on the Hour of Code website were set up so that any teacher could teach it and any student could learn it.

“It was set up so you didn’t need any background on computers,” said Stewart.

Students logged into the website and the tutorials taught coding using the Angry Birds game. There is also one called Tinker for smaller kids, Stewart said.

The advanced classes did actual coding with Javascript, Stewart said.

At the career center, Stewart said there were around 200 students who came for the tutorials. Anyone can benefit from it. Stewart explained that the welding classes, law safety classes and the cosmetology classes at the career center all participated.

The feedback Stewart received was positive.

“I got feedback from the elementary schools that they wanted to continue,” said Stewart who mentioned additional resources they could use including Codecademy and Alice. The Alice software was designed for women and minorities since those groups tend to back away from computer science and programming.

In fact, Stewart said she has one girl in her computer science courses at the career center.

During the Hour of Code, all kinds of students participated which was made to basically introduce coding to students.

Stewart said there are plenty of free resources online for students to learn how to code. They can start with but there are many out there.

One called Coursera which offers free courses including computer science online. It’s developed by college professors for high school students.

Stewart said she will push to have this week-long event again but wants to involve more students. This time was set up during the district’s mid terms so many of the high school students were not able to participate.

“We will be at a definite disadvantage if we don’t push (computer science),” said Stewart about getting students involved more in this field.

However, the students who did participate enjoyed it, said Stewart.

“Most didn’t know what coding was by definition and at the end it was really neat to watch them go through the lessons without anyone really having to offer expertise,” said Stewart. “I was surprised at the number who finished and kept going.”

At the career center, Stewart also opened up the computers and showed students what the motherboard, graphics card and the rest of the inside of a computer looked like.

“I really believe students need to have the technical skills because that’s going to make them successful outside of school. They need to drive their learning,” said Stewart. “It’s something I will push for next year and push for all students to try and for the students who already have tried it to push them to the next level.”