Here in Georgia, skilled programmers, software developers, and engineers are in high demand – but there aren’t enough Georgians to fill those jobs. That’s just one reason why computer science skills, and the ability to write code, are crucially important competencies in the rapidly changing workforce our students will enter.
From the classroom to the state policy level, here’s a look at Hour of Code celebrations in Georgia.
More computer science courses, with credit flexibility
On Thursday, the State Board of Education voted to approve standards for three new computer science courses: Embedded Computing, Web Development, and Game Design: Animation and Simulation. As part of a continued move toward credit flexibility, students will be eligible to receive a core math, science, or foreign language credit for any of those courses. Thursday’s vote brings the total number of courses eligible for this type of credit flexibility to eight.
When the standards were posted, both State School Superintendent Richard Woods and Governor Nathan Deal weighed in.
From Superintendent Woods: “We need computer science and programming in our public schools. Skilled programmers, software developers, and engineers are in demand in Georgia, but without a pipeline of skilled workers to fill those jobs, businesses will look outside Georgia to find the employees they need. We cannot afford to let our Georgia graduates miss out on those opportunities. … These Computer Science courses not only expand opportunities for our students, but also are in line with my commitment to continue to expand the avenues for graduation.”
From Governor Deal: “Preparing students to succeed in the modern workforce is a top priority of my administration. Computing is currently one of the fastest growing occupations in the country with average salaries nearly twice the national rate. Training our students to fill these high-wage, in-demand positions is necessary for Georgia to maintain a world-class workforce.”
Each course was developed with involvement from industry representatives in related fields, and posted for public comment for sixty days prior to the vote. For background information, view this press release from the posting of the courses.
Learning from the best – Georgia students
Following the meeting, Superintendent Woods and State Board members dug in themselves, participating in an interactive coding demonstration with students from Flat Rock Middle School in Fayette County.
Schools all over Georgia held their own Hour of Code, spanning a variety of grade levels and content areas. Here are just a few examples.
Baggett Elementary School (Paulding County Schools)
Baggett Elementary was busy all week with Hour of Code – the school’s theme was Code Like a Superhero! and all students from kindergarten through fifth grade were involved. Each student had an hour of time throughout the week to complete the code.org programming. Kindergarten students got the chance to have a guest speaker, Mr. Stepp, come and speak about what he does with computer programming each day. (He also showed students how to program a robot to dance using coding!) After completing their time in coding, all students got to sign the school’s Code Like a Superhero board.
Students celebrated Hour of Code week in the school’s STEM lab by working on grade-level projects that involved the programming skills students have developed this year. For the last two weeks in December, all grade levels used coding skills to create animations, write stories, invent video games, and control robots.
Upper elementary students learned and practiced the foundations of computer programming while enjoying popular games like Minecraft and Star Wars and working with characters from the movie “Frozen.” Pre-k and kindergarten students experienced computer science fundamentals using the Tynker platform and Tutorials for Beginners at code.org.
On December 7, students in Mrs. Inga Cashon’s Engineering Concepts and Foundations of Engineering classes and Mrs. Karen Lynn’s Introduction to Business and Business Communication classes at Bryan County High completed the Hour of Code – it was BCHS’s third year participating. Students were required to complete an hour of computer coding by choosing various computer science activities to complete; student progress was monitored through a teacher platform and students received instant results and live updates. Upon completion, students were rewarded with a certificate for their accomplishment.
Fifth grade students at Cartersville Elementary worked to make their own Flappy Bird game, program a Minecraft or Star Wars game, and create artistic puzzles and line drawings through code.org. The students also worked on an “unplugged” coding activity which asked them to create code for a “robot” student to stack cups – a great way to enrich the idea of what code really is. From fifth grade teacher Kimberly Mosteller: “My students have benefited greatly from the critical thinking skills that coding has provided. Their engagement and commitment to the tasks have been eye-opening as a teacher.”
Cedar Ridge held its first Hour of Code on December 10 – but 48 gifted students in first through fifth grades have been working with code.org lessons since the beginning of the school year, so they were highly qualified to act as “code coaches” for others in the school. A total of 132 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, participated in the coding event, along with seven parents or relatives and two representatives from the local newspaper. A short video about Star Wars computer programming was showed to each class and students began work on the Star Wars Code platform. Many students also tried the Minecraft and Frozen tutorials. Kindergarten students were coached one-on-one by fifth grade students, and all students were successful in their efforts.
Students across Cedar Shoals participated in Hour of Code. Clarke Superintendent Philip Lanoue and Associate Superintendent Sherri Freeman, assisted by 11th graders Robert Brooks and Eric Smith, tried their hands at Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code. Brooks and Smith are members of Team Tech and assist faculty, staff, and students with instructional technology systems and programs that focus on maximizing the use of technology to improve both teaching and learning. The photo below was taken by Elainal Banks, a tenth grade journalism student.
David C. Barrow Elementary celebrated Hour of Code with multiple grade levels in the library media center. Students used code.org Blockly programs to code Minecraft, Star Wars and Frozen. Students also used 12 Finch robots, which are on loan to the school through Birdbrain Technologies. Using a program called Snap, students coded the robots to change colors and maneuver around the library. Along the way, students had conversations about coding careers, perseverance, and problem solving. Learn more here and here.
Over three afternoons of Hour of Code activities, computer science students from Shorter University visited to talk with students about coding. Students from elementary to college, with varying levels of experience, participated along with an elementary teacher. Students worked on tutorials involving Star Wars, Minecraft, Angry Birds, and Frozen characters. Over the three days, about 46 percent of the participants were female – and some participants returned for all three afternoons.
Lithia Springs had more than 200 students involved with the Hour of Code, in basic functions of programming by using code.org. During the celebration of Computer Science Week, a majority of students were exposed to programming for the first time.
Also at Lithia Springs, approximately 65 STEM students are working on a special project with guidance from Georgia Tech.
Coding is an exciting new class within the STEM lab at Mill Creek Elementary – students in grades k-5 are learning the basics of coding. With their new coding skills, students are gaining an understanding of sequencing, cause and effect, and mathematical angles – just to name a few real-life learning situations.
Teachers wanted every child to have an hour to code, so on each academic team, one teacher dedicate his or her class period to coding. On Wednesday, the Computer Applications and Engineering & Technology students visited the library to code and take place in the school’s first ever Maker event. Students programmed the Ozobot and Ollie/Sphero robots, created a human piano and video game controller to play Super Mario, and built with littleBits kits and the school’s Grove Pi kit featuring Raspberry Pi.