Hour of Code connects kids and computer science

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
West Jefferson Middle School students (from left) Payton Smith, Kayleigh Branham and Joshua Nesbit work on coding a program on their school-issued Chromebooks during an “Hour of Code” event on Dec. 6.

(Posted Dec. 24, 2017)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Students across the world and in West Jefferson celebrated computer science the week of Dec. 4. The highlight was an “Hour of Code” during which students spent time with computer science experts and worked on computer-generated activities.

Local middle and high schoolers spent the hour in the library listening to specialists, including Tom Chamberlain, a computer manager with the Ohio Water Development Authority. Chamberlain stressed the vital role math skills play in everyday life.

“I want to explain to students how important math is in computer programming and interacting with the Internet,” Chamberlain said prior to his presentation. “You can’t play with a keyboard without understanding math in coding.”

Kristen Kearns, technology integration specialist for Jefferson Local Schools, said everyone across the district understands the need for students to have a general understanding of how computers work.

Kearns reported that her department strives to encourage and pique students’ interest in coding, especially in grades six through eight. This is the first year the district is offering a small, workshop-style coding class at the middle school. It’s also the first year the high school has offered a half-year computer science principles class.

“Next year, we’d like to run a computer science principles class and expand it to a year-long program,” Kearns said. “We’re finding that a lot of students that are bored in a class do well with programming. They are excited and engaged.”

For the Hour of Code held on Dec. 6, middle schoolers filed into the library carrying their school-issued Chromebooks. Chamberlain started his presentation by telling students that computers only understand math, which is why the subject is important.

“I wish I had taken a lot more than just basic algebra and geometry,” said Chamberlain, who writes software programs related to financing water and sewer projects across Ohio.

“There is a big future for computer programmers. The Ohio demand for programmers is really high. There are probably 20,000 unfilled IT (information technology) positions in central Ohio alone.”

Eighth-grader Kayleigh Branham said computer science is something she might experiment with to see if she is really interested in the subject.

Payton Smith already knows he has an interest. The middle-schooler coded a musical instrument program on his Chromebook and played it during the Hour of Code.

“Coding is definitely something I like to do in my spare time, and I could possibly do it as a career,” he said. “I love it when people look at and are amazed at something I created. It’s fun to do. I hope to turn this into something big one day.”

According to Hourofcode.com, the event began as a one-hour coding challenge to introduce students to computer science. It has since become a global learning and awareness event, offering hundreds of one-hour activities in over 48 languages for students at all grade levels. It typically coincides with Computer Science Education Week.

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