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Redwood Falls Gazette - Redwood Falls - MN
  • What’s the computer code? — Elementary students taking next step in technology education

  • Students in Sue Osborne’s class at Reede Gray Elementary School were exposed to a concept once believed only open to those with graduate degrees during this past school year: coding, and it is at the heart of so much of what is technology today....
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  • The world of computer science is growing dramatically. In fact, some believe in the not-too-distant future computer related jobs are going to create a demand that outpaces the number of students earning degrees of any kind. That has led to an increased emphasis on technology education at an early age. Students in Sue Osborne’s class at Reede Gray Elementary School were exposed to a concept once believed only open to those with graduate degrees during this past school year. The concept is called coding, and it is at the heart of so much of what is technology. Coding is what makes everything from creating software and Web sites possible. It is behind everything from the apps on your phone to the operating system installed in the computer you are using. So, how does a group of young students grasp the concept of coding. It’s really simple. Do you remember the early days of reading when smaller sight words were enhanced by pictures that represented much bigger and more advanced reading skills? It was learning those sight words along the way that led to the reading of bigger words that led to the reading of sentences, paragraphs and books. The concept of coding taught at an early age is similar. Rather than dump a bunch of terms and jargon students are not going to understand, the concept of coding at an early age means helping them understand the purpose and the process. So, through games students learn to develop code one step at a time, and as their understanding increases the number of steps also increases. For example a code game might require a student to offer specific directions for an on-screen figure to move from one place to the next. Simple directions using arrows allows them to create the commands to make the figure move. As the coding concepts become more involved there are more commands added. An initial command to walk one step may be followed by a step and a left turn.
    “For them it’s a lot of trial and error,” said Osborne, adding the students are really learning problem solving skills they are going to utilize regardless of what career path they choose later in life. Osborne said Web sites, such as www.code.org, provide students with the basics of code writing, adding on that site there are also videos from people such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, that help the students understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. Do the kids like it? Osborne said at first they were not excited, but as they began to experience accomplishments they wanted to keep going to see how far their skills and understanding could take them. “It’s fun to play,” said Aviahna Hoffmann. “You just have to know your left, right and forward commands.” Becoming more fluent with coding at an early age could lead to even greater strides taking technology in a whole new direction.

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