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Learning through Fun: Holladay Students Take “Hour of Code” Challenge

Jan 28, 2016 03:33PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Stephanie Lauritzen | Stephanie@mycityjournals.com

Cottonwood-Holladay - In 2013, educational non-profit Code.org introduced the “Hour of Code” initiative: challenging students and teachers to incorporate one hour of computer science and coding into their curriculums. The goal? To demystify computer coding and prove that anybody—from a first-grader to a high-school student—can learn the basics of computer science.  Since its inception, millions of students, including those in Granite School District and other local schools, have participated in “Hour of Code” challenges during December’s Computer Science Education Week.  

“Coding is a great way to help students develop problem solving skills and perseverance. Students don’t even know that their brains are growing because to them, they are playing a Star Wars game, or helping Princess Elsa through a maze. Introducing something entirely new like coding is also a great way to level the playing field for my students. Students that struggle in other academic areas may be fabulous at coding,” Katherine Ricks, a third-grade teacher at Howard R. Driggs Elementary, said.

This is the second year Ricks participated in the Hour of Code initiative, and she’s been thrilled with the results in her classroom, so much so that she has extended the program and made it a key component to her teaching. She believes computer science and coding develops essential problem-solving skills, which in turn creates successful adults. 

“A lot of what we do in school is explaining to students how to do something and then having them repeat it. This does not teach them to break down a problem themselves and persevere until they succeed. Improving these skills makes students better students in all subjects…whether they are interested in sports, fashion, art, medicine etc. Learning to code is one way to work in those fields,” Ricks said. 

Granite School District technology specialist Brittany Dimmick likewise sees the value in introducing coding and technology skills in the classroom. She’s organized coding clubs at schools throughout the district, assisting both teachers and students in expanding their computer science skills.  

“In the future, every job will use computer technology, and learning to code can help students be prepared to do any type of job from fixing a car to building a microwave,” Dimmick said. “I love seeing how excited students become when they solve a problem, they are so determined to figure out how to make their code work, and they will try multiple times until they succeed. What I like the most of all is the girls who see that they can do this, getting girls into programming and watching them realize that they are great at it. There’s no difference between boys and girls in what they can learn.” 

At St. Vincent de Paul School in Holladay, Tyler Stack works with grades K-8 using Code.org’s coding challenges to help students learn new ways of thinking. 

“Coding helps kids think differently than what they might be used to. They learn to break down problems sequentially and to think like a computer programmer. They realize that in order to make their computer droid move diagonally, they have to make them move forward, and then left. These are the building blocks of coding and the kids love it. It’s very motivating to see their results happen on screen,” he said.  

For Stack, coding exercises are an ideal activity for all grade levels, since coding draws on reading and math skills that can be integrated into any curriculum’s learning expectations. 

“No matter what subject you might be teaching, coding teaches kids to work until they become successful, that’s something that helps students of all ages,” he said.

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