Students get hands-on coding experience

Krystle Wagner • Dec 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Josh Hacker focused intently on his laptop’s screen as the Grand Haven fourth-grader learned computer coding.

Through the use of free apps, Hacker and his classmates at Peach Plains Elementary School recently spent an hour dedicated to coding. The program, called Hour of Code, is part of a global effort to reach students from more than 180 countries and capture their interest in a future in computer science.

Gov. Rick Snyder proclaimed the week of Dec. 7-13 as Computer Science Education Week in Michigan. In a press release, Snyder said the state’s students need to be proficient in coding, math and science to continue Michigan’s comeback.

Peach Plains fourth-grade teacher Aaron Klanderman said participating in the Hour of Code was a good opportunity for his students.

Klanderman’s students selected characters from “Frozen,” “Star Wars” or Minecraft. They were then tasked with getting the character to complete specific actions before moving onto the next level.

Although the hour was the first time some of the students explored coding, Hacker, 9, said he has coded for more than two years because he finds it “fun.”

“You get to tell the computer what to do,” he said.

As Isabelle Dobroc’s Minecraft character successfully performed the assigned actions, the 10-year-old excitedly proclaimed, ”I got it!”

Dobroc explained that they were essentially “building a game” by giving characters specific actions to complete a task.

Katie Snyder said having characters from popular movies helped gain her interest, and she found that the level of coding they were doing was “easy” but “fun.”

On Saturday, some fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders in Muskegon and northern Ottawa counties will participate in an Hour of Code event at Muskegon Community College. Christopher VanOosterhout, an MCC computer information systems instructor, said they want to create “passion for computing, technology and innovation within kids of our community.”

Through one-to-one technology implementation in Grand Haven schools, Klanderman has noticed a change in his students. He said he’s found students are more accepting of failure, and they use it as an opportunity to learn and move onto another way of finding a solution.

Technology has also driven students to be more engaged with their learning, Klanderman said, and it gives them a chance to excel in ways they might not have in a traditional school setting.

“It’s fun to see different kids soaring,” the teacher said.

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