Editor's: The following story was compiled by staff members of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District to chronicle DY’s extensive participation in Computer Science Week. Both the text and photographs are by D-Y staff members.
Last week was “Computer Science Education Week.” To celebrate, Dennis-Yarmouth has teamed with Code.org to expose every student in Dennis-Yarmouth to an “Hour of Code.”
Along with millions of other students around the world, all of the Special and Regular Education students in Dennis-Yarmouth were given an hour last week to learn what coding means and to get hands-on experience with it. They learned how to code games to control “Angry Bird,” Disney’s “Frozen” characters, and others to complete specific tasks such as navigating a maze. Students logged into Code.org using their iPads, laptops or desktop computers, and could use the Code.org site both in school and at home.
Dennis-Yarmouth teachers partnered with Code.org to help promote the learning of computer coding. “Code.org,” is an organization represented by such visionaries as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others whose goal is to encourage U.S. students to explore coding.
On completing this hour of coding, students from all six of DY’s schools gave consistent feedback that coding is fun but “hard.” Universally, students were observed to stay with the task, without prompting, despite their frustrations until they’d completed.
When offered help, the majority of students observed rejected it, wanting to complete the tasks themselves. They were impatient to move on to more challenging levels of the program and exhibited real pleasure at having met the challenges. Jarius M., a fifth grader at Wixon Innovation School stated that coding is fun, “and when you get done you can be proud [of what you’ve done].”
Molly Fedele, Technology Coach at Mattacheese felt that the hour of code helps teach kids perseverance and not to be afraid to fail. Nathan is a 4th grade student who, according to his teacher Erin Carstensen, doesn’t take risks, yet he persisted in trying different things on the computer to watch for the results of his coding. He then corrected the code to reach the desired end result. “That’s not anything he would normally do.”
Lynn Kraus, 5th grade teacher, felt the Hour of Code helps kids at the younger grades understand that someone has to make computers do what they do; that the student themselves can be the ones to give the computer its instructions. She also noted that the experience helps teach sequential thinking – as coding is a step by step process where one thing has to precede another in order to work.
Librarian Deb Sweeny at Station Ave first discovered Code.org last year and, along with Jennifer Govoni at the High School and a few other teachers, participated in the Hour of Code with their classes. This year every school participated. Some teachers plan to build on this experience by applying for grants to work on things like robotics, programming with Scratch, and developing full courses in Computer Sciences to supplement those courses already offered at the High School.
Computers do what they’re told. Coding, or computer programming as it is otherwise known, is part of the broader field of Computer Science. Michael V., a fifth grade student at the Mattacheese Middle School in West Yarmouth, explains that Computer Science is “the system, workings and apps on the computer.”
Computers don’t always look like what we think of as computers. They perform literally thousands of tasks that we rely on throughout our day. Students from the six schools in DY explain that computers run your phone, control your car, and operate your GPS. They regulate your home’s heating and cooling systems, can choose your music for you and (if you happen to use one of those new-fangled vacuums) clean your floors while you sleep. That’s just a few of the things they do - not to mention what they do in the business, entertainment and medical worlds. To do what they do, they all require coding.
One of Dennis-Yarmouth’s goals is to “educate students for their future, not our past” quotes Carol Woodbury, Superintendent. Those with the skills to write computer code can name their salary according to the National Science Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Exposure to Computer Science leads to some of the best paying jobs in the world.” They project that 60% of math and science jobs will be in the computer field by 2020, and one in five jobs will be in robotics (both of which are taught at DY High School).
But how many people are prepared for these jobs? Data shows that only 2% of High School students in the United States study computer related subjects. Less than 2.4% of College students graduate with a degree in computer science. While computer use is growing, the number of workers prepared to meet the need created by this growth is not. The U.S. created computers and the Internet, yet students and workers around the world are far ahead of us in this area.
The earlier children are exposed to coding, the more skilled they’ll be upon graduation. Data from the College Board and the Computer Science Teachers Association indicate that only 1 in 9 schools in the U.S. offer computer programming courses. Dennis-Yarmouth is one of the school districts that do.