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Learning more than just coding during Computer Science Education Week

December 09, 2015

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time for hot chocolate, carols - and, of course, Computer Science Education Week! Since 2013, schools around the world have spent the first full week in December bringing computer science into the classroom, and this week, the tradition continues.

How are schools and teachers celebrating? For Bruce Chappell, a geometry teacher in Carroll County, Maryland, CS Education Week was an opportunity to get his students thinking outside the textbook. Chappell brought his entire class to a special programming workshop led by the school’s media specialist, where students spent the afternoon learning the basics of coding with tutorials on Code.org. He hopes that an introduction to computer science will help his students with the kind of tough problem-solving that they tackle every day in math class. “We do a lot of logic and reasoning,” Chappell pointed out, “so [computer science] is an extension of the whole understanding of the course.”

What about subjects besides math, or students who don’t plan to have careers in computer science? According to Kimberly Johnson, Carroll County’s media specialist, programming is valuable for all students because of the crucial skills it helps them develop. “Programming teaches you how to think,” she told Chappell’s class at the workshop. “You determine ‘what do I want to happen on the screen?’ and ‘how am I going to get that to happen?’”

A little hands-on experience with computer science can also help connect us to the technology we use every day, whether in or out of the classroom. As Johnson put it, “We are so tied to technology that we might not think about how it does all the things that it does...this is just a really easy way to show students how a computer can’t do anything without the students behind it.” Johnson and Chappell hope that tech tutorials will empower their students to approach technology from a new perspective - and develop some important problem-solving skills in the process.