Alta High junior Gretchen Meeks took a look at a simple code her classmates created to make sure it was accurate. It wasn’t a high-tech program written on a computer, but rather arrows drawn on paper to tell her how to create a plastic cup pyramid.
“My Robotic Friends” allowed Alta student programmers to work in a group to write a code to make a design out of cups while one student, or “robot”, was asked to leave the room. Then the “robot,” or Gretchen in this group, was invited back to try to make the design using the code the programmers wrote.
Gretchen’s classmates almost had it correct on their first attempt to write code during an Hour of Code activity that the whole school participated in on Dec. 8.
“With the rising number of computers involved in so many jobs and career fields, it is important that people know how to not only use, but be able to understand, code,” Gretchen said.
Her classmate, Curtis Lundberg, said that it was “pretty cool writing code.”
“This makes it look pretty easy,” he said. “Maybe I’ll take more classes.”
That is part of the whole idea of Hour of Code, Alta High work-based learning facilitator Helen Brown said.
“We want students to try coding and get excited about how easy and fun it can be,” she said. “The Hour of Code (on code.org) has created tutorial games, such as ‘Angry Birds,’ where students can learn how the code makes the game function.”
Math teacher Bret Thomas said that he is glad his advisory students became more aware of coding, and it sparked the interest of some.
“This is an opportunity for them to see how easy it is and what opportunities are available once they learn it,” he said.
Alta’s Technology Student Association members use coding to program robots. They also are putting together computers and write code to have them make sounds that will play a song.
High school students weren’t the only ones learning about coding.
Throughout Canyons School District, all the high schools and Canyons Technology Education Center participated, along with 75 percent of all middle schools, including Indian Hills, and 83 percent of all elementary schools, including Sprucewood, Lone Peak, Oakdale and Peruvian Park Elementary schools.
“Students are having a much greater exposure to computer use at a younger age,” Canyons School District Career and Technical Education Director Janet Goble said. “By learning how to program, it helps students become creators of technology versus only being users of technology. We have a computer technology graduation requirement, Exploring Computer Science, and these elementary kids already are being introduced to skills the same as our high school students.”
Sprucewood Principal Lori Jones said she realizes the importance of computer technology skills.
“Sprucewood is participating in an Hour of Code to help prepare our students for future jobs and because we believe it is a new literacy skill that will be absolutely necessary for our students to know,” she said.
She also had older students helping younger students learn coding similar to computer science students helping their peers at CTEC.
“We’ve had the computer science students help other students in all the different areas,” teacher Cody Henrichsen said. “They learn better when they’re doing it with someone else, and they can have fun while developing logical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help them in all fields.”
Henrichsen, who participated in the National Science Foundation computer science education week, which led to the Hour of Code kick off with President Barack Obama, said that the need to code is found in all career fields: in business as programs are needed to be written; in welding to program robots to design or cut out materials; in cosmetology for a program app to remind them about client appointments; and in medicine, for research and reviewing patient data.
“What we want students to take away from the Hour of Code is: ‘I can do it. It is fun. It applies to me,’” he said.
Canyons School District Career and Technical Education Director Janet Goble has been elected to serve as the Association for Career and Technical Education’s administration division vice president. Her three-year term begins July 1.
Goble was elected by 4,700 ACTE members after a six-month interview process. Her position will have her involved in advocating on Capitol Hill for career and technical funding, planning national conferences, along with recruitment and communication through a quarterly newsletter. Her position represents both secondary and post-secondary career and technical education.
“This will let me step out and gain another point of view, a national perspective, which I can bring back to our district,” Goble said. “I can have the opportunity to establish relationships where we can share ideas and increase dialogue about CTE.”
Goble, who served three years in the association’s presidency and now is on the executive board of Utah’s chapter, also wants to advocate for more CTE teachers, resources and ensure proper training is in place for teachers who are entering administration.