by Ms. Maureen Hann, education technology specialist
In December, SMUS students participated in the Hour of Code, a worldwide initiative aimed at introducing school-aged children to computer programming. For the second straight year, our students joined millions of others around the world in completing an hour of coding tutorials and games created specifically for this event.
Programming tutorials range from logic and problem-solving games at the Junior School level to creating games and mobile apps at the Senior School level, providing options for the earliest beginner to experienced programmers. Junior and Middle School students participated in the Hour of Code during the official dates (during National Computer Science Week in December), while Senior School students are still looking forward to their hour-long programming opportunity, which will likely be held later this month or in February.
Computer programming opportunities at SMUS have grown in the last couple of years; participation in the Hour of Code last year was met with so much excitement and enthusiasm that we introduced several new opportunities this school year.
We now offer extracurricular technology clubs at all three schools, providing opportunities for students to continue developing their coding skills. In September, Grade 3 teachers Allison Galloway and Brandon Hawes began a program called “Genius Hour” where students select an area of interest to study in depth – one of the areas being programming; we now have groups of 8-year-olds working on coding on a regular basis.
Students at the Middle School have opportunities to continue coding during their Information Technology classes, as well as through many technology-immersed Exploratory options. There are also 40 students at the Junior and Middle Schools who are taking on the First Lego League Robotics club, a new program offered this year where they learn to program robots. They will participate in tournaments in February.
To accommodate the rapid growth in the school’s technology initiatives, an Innovation Lab was created at the Richmond Road campus where students come as part of a class, club or on their own time to tinker with robots, film against a green screen or develop designs for 3D printing.
At the Senior level we added two new courses: Computer Science 11 and AP Computer Science 12, which provide much-needed skills for students intending to pursue post-secondary education in engineering or computer science.
This week, the provincial government announced that coding and programming will be formally introduced into the provincial K-12 curriculum in the fall. According to The Globe and Mail, Premier Christy Clark said, “Every kindergarten to grade 12 student will have…the opportunity to learn the basics of coding.”
That decision is being heralded by all of us involved in education technology at SMUS.
“This decision reaffirms that our direction at SMUS is the right one,” says Denise Lamarche, Director of Academics. “We have started embedding opportunities for kids to code throughout our K-12 program, so this news is fantastic as we look ahead to how we grow those opportunities in the coming years.”
In addition to developing specific computer skills, coding also helps students gain problem-solving and logic skills. We see students experiment with coding that doesn’t work the first time, so they reflect on what they’ve done, go back and try again. It also helps with developing perseverance because they want to be successful, they want their coding to work, so they will try and try and try because it’s a fun way to learn.
It’s great to see that the Ministry of Education is recognizing that this is important and it’s an important skill for kids to have in the 21st century.
(photo by Kent Leahy-Trill)