Dec. 12, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
Coding and programming aren’t that complicated –– well, not when you have a game to get you started.
From Dec. 9-13 code.org sponsored a Week of Code, similar to Reading Month in March, to encourage youth to learn programming skills. Classes from four of the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ elementary buildings –– Haisley, Ann Arbor Open, Lawton and Burns Park –– took part, engaging in code.org’s “Hour of Code” activities that introduce students to programming.
Sharon Pryce’s fourth and fifth grade class at Burns Park participated in an Hour of Code on Dec. 12. The class was joined by four employees from Ann Arbor’s Google offices and parent volunteers.
“Computers at this point are ubiquitous,” said Google employee Ryan Purcell. “It’s important to understand on some level how the tools that you use every day actually work. And it’s also great to get a head start on learning how to do this stuff for future employment.”
Code.org provided fun games for the students that introduced them to programming concepts. “I wish I’d had half these games when I was a kid,” said Google employee Joe Parente. “Games were how I started to learn logic and get interested in programming in the first place. So I think this is a great way to learn those fundamentals.”
The parent volunteers and Google employees provided help to students when they couldn’t quite figure out a game in which they moved a bird through a maze with commands.
“Sometimes they get stuck when they need to make the bird go two steps,” said parent Kristen Johnson, who is an engineer for Ford. “Those if/then statements are kind of tricky. Like if the bird is going to hit a wall, then the student needs to make it turn right. But most of them are figuring it out.”
Students are already eager to interact with technology, said AAPS Director of Instructional Technology Merri Lynn Colligan. Activities like code.org’s coding modules “allow students to experience the success of creating while learning basic programming logic.”
It’s important to provide opportunities for students to experience programing for problem solving in an engaging way, Colligan added, because programming is an increasingly important skill in the 21st century. “As the world continues to weave technologies into our daily lives, coding knowledge will also be needed to develop new products, facilitate human-computer interactions and interpret data. Computer science and STEAM skills are needed in manufacturing, engineering, mobile technology, web design, biomedical devices, social and digital media.”
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