Who Knew Computer Coding Could Be Such Fun?

Tech Ed instructor John O'Connor in a BHS robotics class - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
Tech Ed instructor John O’Connor in a BHS robotics class – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

By Linda White

After Hour of Code, Bedford Students Know the Answer!

“It’s addicting!” … “Do I really have to stop now?”  Two phrases you may never have heard in your COBOL or BASIC classes or workplace a few decades ago. However, last week those two phrases were in the air at all Bedford Public Schools during Hour of Code exercises celebrating Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13.

Donna Clements, Bedford Public Schools Director of Technology and Library Media, explained “The Hour of Code is a global event designed to introduce students to and excite them about computer science by demystifying code as students take part in an engaging interactive approach to computer science. This is the third year Bedford students are participating.”

Students across all levels of the Bedford system participated in computer coding activities.  Here is a sampling of what we found: In each of the schools, the 2015 Hour of Code was a busy, interesting and educational week for students, teachers, volunteers and observers.

Thank you to all who participated and shared your experience with The Bedford Citizen.

At Davis School

Working with librarian Jeremy Royds
A first-grade student working with Davis School librarian Jeremy Royds – Image (c) 2015 all rights reserved
The Hour of Code for first grade students at Davis School - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
The Hour of Code for first grade students at Davis School – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

Davis School librarian Jeremy Royds coordinated kindergarten, first and second grade students who worked with a partner utilizing Scratch block coding for Lightbot, Mindcraft and Star Wars programs.

Royds’ instructions to Janet Houston’s first grade class included “Remember you are creating a computer game. Be a good team member by talking out your plan respectfully and also listening respectfully to your partner. Be flexible. Two brains can successfully solve a problem one cannot. If you get stuck, run your program to test your programming logic.”

The students moved blocks of instructions to place and piled them up much like Lego blocks to construct their programs.  Students clearly understood and took Royds’ directives to heart, and it was not uncommon to hear them speak to one another using animated and polite language such as “Now it is your turn. … Do you want me to help you? … Let’s run it and see what happens. … Why do you think it is not working? … Let’s try this.”

The hour passed much too quickly and it was time to head over to the Lane School and observe one of their sessions.

At Lane School

Jeff Derderian mentors a student at Lane School - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015
Jeff Derderian mentors a student at Lane School – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015
Students working together in the Lane School computer lab - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
Students working together in the Lane School computer lab – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

The Lane School Computer Lab was buzzing with activity. Linda Coviello, Lane Librarian/Maker Space Teacher; Matt Hall, Instructional Technology Specialist; Donna Clements and parent volunteer Jeff Derderian were on hand to assist students from Meghan Farrell’s fourth grade class.

Students worked individually and in small groups utilizing more advanced skills to think critically and solve problems. Students moved to higher levels of complexity and celebrated their programming successes.

Coviello shared a Youtube clip with the students of the enormous Amazon.com warehouse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtBa9yVZBJM) that showed the students how the warehouse robots were programmed to move in an efficient grid-like fashion to get all of our holiday orders delivered in a timely manner.  On a smaller scale, the example was not unlike the Lightbot challenges students were working on and that used some of the same programming logic skills the students were being asked to demonstrate.

Coviello is quick to remind students, “This is a learning environment where you may try and fail or try again and fail better. Try to keep the Maker Space goals of Think, Create, and Innovate in mind as you work through these computing exercises and challenges.” When the period ended, it was not surprising to hear the students moan, “Is it over already?”

Back on the road and heading over to JGMS.

At John Glenn Middle School

In Tony Rucito's Tech Ed class - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
In Tony Rucito’s Tech Ed class – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
Coding in
Coding in Mr. Rucito’s class – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

Technology Education teachers Tony Ruscito and Jim Galante encouraged JGMS students to learn through their own experience by allowing them to make their way through the various tutorials and self-correct as necessary.

Most students worked in pairs or small groups. There was friendly competition and plenty of examples of students assisting one another to reach their goals and progress to more challenging levels. Ruscito explained that the changing nature of Tech Ed in our schools is in part due to the MCAS inclusion of engineering. Galante, who is relatively new to Bedford Schools and JGMS is looking forward to teaching NXT Lego Mindstorm robotics and 3D printing. He is excited to be teaching in Bedford and appreciates how strongly Tech Ed is supported by the administration and the Bedford community at large.

Time to leave the Flappy Birds, Angry Birds and Lightbots behind and make our way to the High School.

At Bedford High School

BHS-3
Instructor Sarah Leshay working with a student in her Science Exploration class – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

 

Working together in Mr. O'Connor's class - Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved
Working together in Mr. O’Connor’s class – Image (c) JMcCT, 2015 all rights reserved

John O’Connor’s BHS class was working on HTML projects using links, CSS cascading style sheets, YouTube clips, pictures and style elements. Their homework assignment from the previous night was under review, and they were experiencing some of the very real work-world problems of the system being slow, inability to locate where their work was stored and the challenges of embellishing their projects. Again, the level of student sharing and willingness to collaborate with one another was evident.

O’Connor’s goals for the class are “to be able to work through these issues, learn how to problem solve, think through and around a project assignment.” The students also build skills working on Flappy Bird and Star Wars programs and will hopefully move into doing some of the Lego Robotics more sophisticated competitive challenges.

Science teacher Sarah Leshay had a group of freshman students from her Science Exploration class in the computer lab working with Scratch block programming. Exploration was the key word. Students experimented with animating alphabet letters and objects, adding sound, importing backgrounds, programming objects to move, turn, spiral, hide, replicate, etc. The students clearly enjoyed the opportunity to experiment and try out various elements. Leshay made plans with the class to make time to schedule the computer lab for another visit.

About the Hour of Code

The Hour of Code initiative is a grassroots campaign goal of Code.org to engage tens of millions of students (ages 4 – 104) across more than 180 countries to spend at least one hour of computer coding.  For additional information about the Hour of Code initiative, please visit https://code.org/learn. You can try your hand at some of the programs and games, without cost, and you will be ready to participate in Hour of Code 2016.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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