Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 26/4/2017 (1251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of Grade 8 students at Earl Oxford School traded pens and notebooks for laptops on Tuesday afternoon as part of a pilot program aiming to introduce computer programming to a younger demographic.
Grade 12 computer science students from Vincent Massey High School visit Earl Oxford as well as J.R. Reid School every other week to teach kids how to code — an effort to pique interest and boost enrolment in high school computer science courses.
"Our kids have a lot if interest in it, but for some reason they aren’t enrolling in (the computer science classes) once they’re in high school," said Earl Oxford Grade 7/8 teacher Kevin Koroluk. "This is the first time this program has ever been done here … and the kids are absolutely loving it."
Students were enthralled as Vincent Massey student Daniel Lysack clicked around blocks and linked them together, arranging them to get a little orange cat to move and jump around the screen.
Some students follow along with his every direction, while others have already started designing their own games with miniature Mega Man characters and elaborate backgrounds.
"It’s all basic programming. The majority of the kids have never seen this stuff before. Grade 9 is usually the first time they get an introduction to it," Koroluk said. "Some of the kids have actually gone home and found the program on their computer and they’ve been creating the programs themselves ... another group of kids has stayed in at recess time to work on their programs."
The students from Vincent Massey also get a chance to practice their teaching skills, something Koroluk said he’s been extremely impressed with.
"They’ve been incredible. They’re really good at what they’re doing," Koroluk said.
The students are learning a program called Scratch — something the Vincent Massey students had to learn to use themselves before teaching it to the younger students, Lysack said.
Scratch’s visual component makes it easy to learn, Lysack said, but it’s also a valuable programming language to know.
"It has no limits because you can do as much as you want. It’s not a dumbed-down version of any other programming language. It’s just as useful if you know how to use it well enough," Lysack said.
Finding the right pace to teach at has been a challenge, Lysack said, but overall working with the younger students has been going better than expected.
"You never really know how enthusiastic the kids will be, and obviously there’s going to be a variety of interest levels in every class," Lysack said. "We’ve found there are at least a couple students in each class that are really interested and taking it upon themselves to learn more and really try to learn the language."
The Vincent Massey students will visit each school about five times in the next several weeks.
In that time, they will learn to make various little pieces of code that Lysack hopes each student will be able to incorporate into a game they can play.
Due to its success in such a short amount of time, Koroluk said he hopes this pilot project will expand in years to come.
"I think we’re hoping that this takes off and next year we can continue this program to be more consistent throughout the year," Koroluk said. "The kids can really take an interest and are building on what they’ve learned in a larger period of time."
» Twitter: @erindebooy
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