Middle school students learn to write code

Student codingSchuylerville Middle School students were a part of history Dec. 8-12, as they took part in an event held nationwide to mark Computer Science Education Week. More than 100 million students worldwide in 170 countries participated in “The Hour of Code.” The annual event serves as an introduction to computer science, designed to help students understand code and show that anybody can learn the basics.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re doing schoolwork,” seventh-grader Lillian Gardner said. “It’s more like a game, but we’re learning to write code at the same time.”

Mark Belden helping a student with codingThe lessons started with students watching short video lectures by some of the technology world’s biggest names – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer – giving students a quick and easy-to-understand explanation of what it means to be a computer scientist. Then, through a game-like, self-directed tutorial, students learned some coding basics, including repeat-loops, conditionals and basic algorithms.

“It’s amazing how engaged the students are in the work,” said Mark Belden, technology teacher at the middle school. “I’m seeing my students problem solve in ways they don’t normally get to do.”

Many of the students were so engaged in the work that they started working on coding at home. Schuylerville seventh-grader Devin Brimmer finished all 20 hours of code mid-way through the week and decided to start the program over for fun.

“I want to be a computer programmer when I’m older,” Brimmer said. “I like seeing what happens behind the scenes: It makes me think differently about the video games I play.”

Belden realizes that not every student will have Brimmer’s passion for computer science, but says it’s important to give students an opportunity to see what computer science is all about.

“The more hands-on chances we can give them to explore it, the more chances they have to find out if this type of field is for them,” Belden said.