David Broyles Staff Reporter
December 17, 2013
Although Millennium Charter Academy computer science students wrapped up their participation in the “Hour of Code” project Monday afternoon, MCA Educational Technologist Mandy Dean anticipates the chance to learn computer code will continue to have positive effects on her students.
According to Dean, the effort was made possible through code.org, a non-profit group dedicated to expanding computer science education. According to information from the group, Code.org’s mission is to support computer science becoming part of the core curriculum in all schools, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses like biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.
Twenty-three students participated in the event for the first time.
The Hour of Code project sought to have 10 million people of all ages be introduced to computer science for one hour during Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) last week. The week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science.
Dean said students were already familiar with “Scratch,” which is free software used to program interactive stories, games, and animations and share the creations with others in an online community. She said Scratch helps young people learn essential skills including how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. MIT Applications Inventor software was also used by the students.
“There is big problem (nationally) finding college graduates in programming, especially young girls,” said Dean. “There’s such a demand but there is hardly anyone out there with the computer skills.” Information supplied by Dean indicated while 57 percent of college bachelors degrees are earned by women, 12 percent of computer science degrees are held by women. This information also noted in 36 of the 50 states, computer science doesn’t count toward high school graduation.
Dean said she was surprised to observe the high comfort level her students had with the technology and was surprised students took the initiative to add sound and other features, including sound, to the games they designed with code.
“Some of the kids said they didn’t like the directions on the web site so they went ahead and did it themselves,” Dean said. “They just went with it and put their own spin on their projects. The collaborated and they were really good on helping each other.”
Student Andrew Tilley, who designed a space invaders game as part of his hour of code, used the designs for the original characters from the arcade game. He explained he used Google to locate the character’s image and then used computer image software to translate the image to his creation. Tilley said he had played the game before on the Sony PlayStation 1.
“I thought this would be something really cool to do and I am interested in this because it is a vital part in getting a good job,” said MCA student Lindley Williams. “I’ve always been interested in things along the scientific line and I thought I’d give it a try. It (her game) went really well. I created a game where a shark chases fish and the fish even bumped off the sides of the screen. I thought ‘it works’ and that felt really good.”
Williams said she and classmate Courtney Busick collaborated on a game where a fork and knife raced to win a turkey as a prize.
Student Blake Wolfe said he had made a “bunch” of games from the Scratch software and really enjoyed recreating “pong.” He said his next project is to see if he can transfer his creation to his phone as an application.
“Technology has been so steady since I’ve been growing up,” said Wolfe. “If it doesn’t work you take it (a program) off and try again.”
Dean said the project had also served to be something to teach students different ways of viewing programming other than only the Scratch program.
“Every day I learn something new from these kids in this classroom,” said Dean. “They are not frightened of anything. If what they’ve done doesn’t work they just remove it and try something new. This is a room full of people who like to solve puzzles. The girls just jumped right in and didn’t hesitate. Hopefully we can work with this in our high school as well.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.