CANDIA — As part of Computer Science Education Week, every student for the last week at the Henry Moore School has been participating in the national Hour of Code program by using computer programming technology developed by MIT.
The Hour of Code program is an effort supported by President Barack Obama and tech industry leaders Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others to get 10 million students worldwide to participate in computer coding for a week.
"This is the kind of learning that has taken off with our students. We have moved more toward a technology-based platform to reach students on their level. Everything in their lives is based on technology, so we are looking at a new set of beliefs for learning," Henry Moore Principal Robert St. Cyr said.
Every student in the school, from kindergarten to 8th grade, participated said teacher LeeAnn Wells by using a special visualbased computer program developed at MIT. To better understand the program and how to teach it, Wells said she goes to MIT once a month to learn and discuss it with the programmers.
"The program is called Scratch. Basically students have the freedom to create or do anything they want by using blocks that represent computer code that they have to order chronologically. So if a student wants to create a scene of someone walking in a park, they have to arrange the blocks in a way that makes that occur," Wells said.
Students used the program to create animated holiday cards.
School Board member Nicole LaFlamme said that for the past week the effort to have students code has been coordinated and supported at every level of the district.
"The entire school is supporting this initiative. All teachers and staff have agreed to code for an hour along with the students. The entire School Board has also agreed to work in tandem with teachers and students by spending an hour coding this week," LaFlamme said.
St. Cyr and Wells said that using technology like Scratch has two important aspects that make teaching it to the students valuable.
"It also helps with self-regulation of the student's own learning; they can set their own limits and decide to go as far as they want. They have to challenge themselves and apply new learning. I am thrilled about it," St. Cyr said.
"This helps prepare them for a job industry where there aren't enough trained people for how many jobs there are out there. In computer programming, it is expected that of one million expected available jobs, only 400,000 will be trained enough to take them," Wells said.
Wells, who also runs an afterschool Scratch team, said that nothing would make her happier than to see a future computer programmer come from Henry Moore.
"I hope we have some future coders come out of Candia. These kinds of programs help prepare our students for a job market which is different from when I was a kid," Wells said.
Many of the students participating said that creating the cards didn't even feel like learning.
"This is really fun; it's pretty cool. You get to make them walk and talk and create anything you want, and it's fun being on a computer," sixth-grader Qamar Mohammedhasan said.
The software is free to use and accessible through the district website through LeeAnn Wells' page.