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Programming for the Future
By Nicola White, Middle School Educational Technology Coach

“90% of parents want schools to teach computer programming, and students love it. Computer science opens more doors than any other discipline. Learning the basics will help students in any career — from architecture to zoology. 71% of all US jobs require digital skills. And high-skilled computing occupations are the fastest-growing, best-paying, and now the largest sector of all new wages in the US.”  code.org

These statistics are very clear. In a few years there will be a surplus of jobs requiring computer science skills and not enough people to fill them! This prompted me to introduce “the Coding Playground” to Middle School students last year and it is now in its second year. My main aims for this programme are twofold; to introduce the students to coding in a fun, exploratory, creative way and at the same time develop skills such as analytical, mathematical, organisational, creativity, problem-solving, collaborative and time management skills. Learning while playing at school, could life get any better?

For two days last week and two days this week Grade 8 students have taken part in another very successful Coding Playground. This alternative programme runs for half the Grade 8 students on campus while the other half are in Wengen. It has proven to be hugely popular with the students. They love the alternative programme, the creative, collaborative but challenging aspect of working on their own projects, being innovative and creative, they love it, with more and more students asking “why can’t we do this more often?”.

The Coding Playground is a 2-day programme. Day One is a fun and exciting day where the students eagerly rotate through four very different sessions where they get to code different types of robots and play games/activities that challenge them at each level. This year our Coding Playground has coincided with Hour of Code Week, a worldwide initiative to get kids coding, so the students have one session devoted to the activities from the Hour of Code website which teaches them to build apps and make their own games using various different programming languages. With the rise in Smart devices, it is not surprising that building Apps is very popular among the kids and we had a few kids who built their own apps and proudly put them on their phones.

This year the students were introduced to Ozobots, the world’s smallest robots which can be coded using both coloured markers and blockly code. These were extremely popular and brought out real creativity in the students when it came to programme them! The Ozobots became disco balls playing music and flashing coloured lights as well as competing against each other on race tracks! The students were also exposed to InO-Bots which are small floor robots which can be programmed to draw mathematical shapes and other images on paper. These were a lot more challenging as they required a certain level of maths skills to operate them! The fourth session was Scratch. Scratch is a programming language and online community where students can programme and share interactive media such as stories, games and animation with people from all over the world. Scratch is designed and maintained by MIT in Boston. The students created their very own games and Google Doodles.

Day Two is an important day. This is Project Day. Students spend the majority of the day designing and creating their own project, building on the skills they learned during Day One. They are encouraged to think outside the box and be as creative as they can. At the end of the day we hold an exhibition where the students showcase their work and we all celebrate their achievements! Its a really nice fun two days where the students are very focused and are actively engaged in their work! In the meantime, if I have encouraged someone to think of this as a possible career choice, then I have succeeded.

References

https://www.brookings.edu/research/digitalization-and-the-american-workforce/

https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/careers-in-computer-science-face-the-facts/

 

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