Diocesan News

Students in diocesan schools participate in ‘Hour of Code’ global event

(SNR) – Students at St. Cecilia High School in Hastings and Cathedral of the Risen Christ and St. Teresa grade schools in Lincoln recently participated in the global “Hour of Code” project to encourage young people to learn computer programming.

Millions of students of all ages around the world were challenged to spend an hour learning ‘code,’ the instructions that create a computer program, during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 8-14.

The first Hour of Code was held in 2013, and 15 million people participated during the designated week, and more than 60 million over the year. Students in more than 180 countries have participated.

Teacher Laura Brouillette at Cathedral School enrolled more than 200 students in grades 2-8 this year. She said she ran across the event while looking for extra coding activities for the school’s technology club that begins next semester, and thought the Hour of Code would be a great way to introduce students to coding, and also to “be a part of something huge.”

“The students think it is pretty neat that they are learning the same thing this week as students from all over the world,” she said.

She prepared the students with some important information, as well. Brouillette said most private and public schools in the United States teach computer applications – how to use a computer and its programs – but not necessarily computer science – how to create a computer and its programs. The Hour of Code organizers – a non-profit group based in Seattle – said there will be an estimated 1 million unfilled jobs in computer science by 2020, so the event was designed to “demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.”

Brouillette said it worked for her classes.

“I have been blown away by the energy in the computer lab this week,” she said. “Students are engaged, excited and working together. I asked some students to type reflections and what I consistently read was that coding was difficult, but they loved the challenge. In some cases, the students who are typically more reserved in class even took the lead.”

Valerie Lackey, who enrolled about 200 students in grades 1-8 at St. Teresa School – and participated in the activity last year, too – agreed.

“People often think of computer programming as difficult or as something they really don’t understand. The Hour of Code makes it fun and easy.”

She said her students were extremely engaged in the activities, working as individuals and in pairs to solve and create. She said she heard “lots of exclamations like, ‘I got it!’ and ‘Look what I made!’”  Many students went home and tried additional activities.

Greg Berndt, who had nearly 80 students in grades 6-12 in the Hour of Code at St. Cecilia in Hastings, also wanted to make students aware of the growing demand for programming skills. He said it helped open students’ eyes to a new interest, or let them know that programming “isn’t too hard” or “only for a certain type of student.” He said even the students who were skeptical “really came along and grew to enjoy it as well.”

Casi Johnson, a junior at St Cecilia, called the experience “interesting and fun.”

“Programming was something I had never done before,” she said.

Berndt hopes to use the success of the program to supplement current curriculum and perhaps gain enough interest for a programming class

“Either way,” he said, “it was a great experience in programming basics for all who participated.”

Brouillette added that, as a Catholic community, “it is our responsibility to teach our children the positive aspects of technology and how it can be used to spread our Church’s teachings. The key is to incorporate digital responsibility and online ethics in the computer curriculum as we do in the Diocese of Lincoln.

“Our legacy will be that we taught and inspired,” she said. “(The students’) legacy will be what they do with that knowledge.”

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