Students Learn Coding Basics

Students Learn Coding Basics
Posted on 03/29/2018

Today’s students are no strangers to technology. Classrooms utilize the latest software programs and apps for research, remedial practice or additional learning opportunities. Outside of school, smart phones and tablets are used to access social media and games.

But how do those programs, apps and games work?
Thanks to the Project ADEPT workshop, “Coding: The 21st Century’s Literacy,” some fourth, fifth and sixth graders at East Rochester Elementary School had the chance to find out.

“Learning how to code is like learning a language,” explains Damon Piletz, a resource teacher with Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Gifted and Talented Education which orchestrates the workshop. “If you learn how it works, there is no limit to what you can do with it.”

Some of the students in the workshop had some previous experience working with code through websites like hourofcode.com and codeacademy.com. These sites provide a simple introduction to code and help interested students explore aspects of computer science.

The workshop was designed as an introduction to coding and the logic structure behind many computer programs. Using Python, the programming language behind many popular apps like Facebook and Instagram, as well as sites like Google and Reddit, the students learned firsthand how to create commands to direct the computer.

“Python is a great language for beginners to learn because it is easy to read,” said Gabriel Schickling, lead IT technician at Simple Tech Innovations and the guest presenter for the workshop. “But it isn’t just a beginner language, it is used for many complex applications as well. The basic logic structure and if/then statements can be used in multiple ways to build larger programs.”

Students built a joke-telling application that asked the user to provide their age and would only tell them the joke if they stated that they were eight years old or older. They also built a random number-guessing game that applied multiple logic rules in a loop until the correct number was guessed.

While building their programs, the students had the opportunity to troubleshoot when something didn’t work right. They found that there were common errors, like an extra space or a missing character, that could be easily identified and fixed. According to Schickling, those errors are also common when working on more complex programs, and the process to identify and fix them is the same. “The fundamental principles we are introducing to the students are the same principles used by professional programmers,” said Schickling.

At the end of the workshop, the students saw how Python was used to easily create things in the popular online game, Minecraft. After exclamations of “wow!” and “that’s cool!,” the students were eager to try out their new skills to build their own cool programs.

Part of BOCES 2 Gifted and Talented Education, Project ADEPT (A Diversified Enrichment Program for the Talented) offers a variety of enrichment workshops for students in grades K-12.