Students learning computer coding at FG Miller
At FG Miller Jr/Sr High School in Elk Point, Kevin Casper’s grade 8 CTS class uses the computer coding program, Scratch, to make a cartoon cat change colour as it walks in a square, or to make an animated duck quack. In this easy to use program, students learn where to insert coding instructions without having to memorize the algorithms.
It’s clear to educators that while most students own personal technological devices, what the youth do with these devices is limited. Travis Eddingfield, technology department lead at SPERD (St Paul Education Regional Division No.1) has a fervent interest in showing kids how to take full advantage of the limitless opportunities presented by computer technology. He plans to spend lunch breaks in 2017-18 visiting other schools across the division to introduce students to programs such as Scratch.
In the last ten minutes of an eighty minute class, Casper allows students to choose their own activities. Brandon Schell and Matthew Quinney choose to continue creating animations on Scratch. Quinney demonstrates how he has programmed an athlete to shoot a basketball that appears to move away from the viewer towards a hoop in the background. He says, “Scratch is fun. It’s fun to work with.” Schell adds, “and it’s easy to use.”
Casper explains, “Scratch teaches kids the logic and reasoning; how programming works. It orders your thinking.” He says, “Then you take off the training wheels and learn specific computer languages for specific reasons.”
In Casper’s high school CTS course, students focus more on their areas of interest. Two students collaborate to create a game from a program that provides the elements, like a build-it-yourself kit. Another student is working on a video, while a classmate develops web pages. Around the room, students work on individual projects.
Not all learners will pursue careers in technology, but, Casper says, “I guarantee you that all students who have learned programming will use logical and critical thinking skills better.”
As well, “Computing Science ADV, which includes programming, counts as a math/science elective for students applying for post secondary courses.”
Eddingfield makes this analogy: “Not all people need to know how to change the oil in their cars, but they all need to know when it’s time for an oil change. Likewise, students won’t all need to know how to program, but they do need to know that programs can be made to meet their needs.”