Computer science is at the heart of our day-to-day operation here at SAS Curriculum Pathways. So we understand the market demand for talented coders, data analysts, web developers, and the like. That's why, during the recent Computer Science Education Week, we were happy to volunteer our time at local schools and lead students in the Hour of Code.
As part of a larger SAS-wide effort, Curriculum Pathways developers and specialists descended on area classrooms to spark interest in computer science. Volunteers came away from the hour amazed at the level of engagement and at the enthusiasm for coding. A silent classroom full of 8th graders coding away? A dream no one thought was possible.
Social studies specialist Molly Farrow and SAS developer Holden O'Neal led 7th and 8th grade students. O'Neal noted,
It was fabulous to have every student taking on the role of a coder and realizing that everything they see on a web page only works because someone wrote the code to make it work. We hit F12 on the Code.org site and showed them how every color, every movement they were seeing in the game was a result of a specific, efficient, amazing code!
Students enjoyed the session so much that Farrow and O'Neal were asked to lead a second hour for high-functioning students with autism.
Similarly, software developer Chris Barefoot and professional-development specialist Ralph Moore teamed up to teach students in an after-school science club. They too wowed students by asking them to name their favorite website and then showing them the source code of the page. The pair contextualized the lesson and explained how they use computer science to create educational software. The take away message was similar to the one emphasized by software developers Tony Castrogiovanni and Phil Issler: pick your passion and use computer science to solve problems in that area. Students then started coding on Code.org.
Software developer Tom Richards didn't let a lack of technology keep students from participating in the Hour of Code. Equipped with an "unplugged" lesson, Richards and his team paired students up, one "computer" and one "coder." The coder was tasked with telling the computer how to draw a predefined image. Just as you would when writing a real program, students had to debug their "code" until the picture matched perfectly. Students walked away with the understanding that computers do exactly what you tell them to do, not necessarily what you want them to do.
At Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School, software developer Jen Mahone, put a twist on the traditional Hour of Code. Instead of coding, she introduced students to another principle of computer science, data mining. Using actual criminal justice data mining techniques as a guide, students in Mahone's classroom aggregated fictitious data points from multiple sources to identify a perpetrator. Mahone reflected, "Computer science is about much more than coding. To broaden participation in CS, it is important to make that point clear."
While we'd like celebrate Computer Science Education Week 52 times a year, events like this help to advocate for more CS in public schools. No matter what your favorite subject, an understanding of computer science will serve you well in today's digital world. Until next year!