Technology

Teacher wants students to think like computer scientists

Posted 1:02 a.m. Sunday

— Hobart Middle School science teacher Crystal Kistler is teaching her seventh-grade students how to think like a computer scientist.

Kistler began teaching "Computer Science for Innovators and Makers" this fall with the implementation of computer science state standards that make sure students at the middle school level learn how to code or program computers.

Schools across Northwest Indiana have begun offering computer coding to children as young as the elementary school level.

Hobart schools Superintendent Peggy Buffington said the changes in 2016 reflect the ever-changing science content and underlying premise that science education should be an inquiry-based and hands-on experience.

"Career exploration at the middle level empowers students to be engaged at school," Buffington said.

"We offer a variety of career pathways and cluster electives for students to participate in at HMS. These pathways allow students to experiment with the possibility of pursuing this type of career choice in high school and additionally, they can take early college classes at Hobart High.

"From robotics to apps to innovators and makers to medical detectives, these are a few samples of career pathway exploration electives at the middle school to help spark students' interests while engaging them in their course standards to achieve higher," Buffington said. "Students really like the classes and see a link to real world applications."

Future impact

Kister said many of the students often work on computers, iPads and other devices at home, and some had some knowledge of computer coding. Students in the School City of Hobart have one-to-one computers and each of Kistler's students have a Chromebook they can also take home.

Seventh-grader Quintin Kaiser said his dad, who is an information technology specialist, has been teaching him at home. "I want to go into IT like my dad," he said as he programmed the micro:bit to spell out "love" and "Hobart." The micro:bit is a handheld programmable computer developed by the BBC in Great Britain, according to its website.

Seventh-graders Madalyn Simpson and Madison Jones said it's interesting.

"Technology will have a big impact on our future," Simpson said. "We're learning new things in technology every day. If you can get an early start on it, that means you'll get an even earlier start on your future."

Jones said it's also fun, and she's done a little coding in a previous class where she learned how to build characters.

Ella Martinez, also in seventh grade, said she's learned how to go on a website and create a design that she can download to the micro:bit, which will scroll out letters to spell out words.

Expanding access

Kistler has many plans for the 162 students during the nine-week course before they switch to another science class, including working with the Valparaiso-based Center for Workforce Innovations that will arrange for the students to visit a local manufacturer.

"I want the kids to see the manufacturing world and how some jobs that humans used to do will be or have already been replaced by robots," she said. "The students also will work on a project and part of the grade will be based on how well they understand coding.

"We really want to build an interest and love for computer coding at the middle school level, and they'll be able to build on that in high school," Kistler said.

Kistler said there are a variety of websites students can look at to learn more about coding, including code.org where more than 20 million U.S. students maintain accounts.

Alice Steinglass, president of code.org, said in today's world where computing plays such a large role in every aspect of life, computer science is foundational to a child's education just as much as writing, algebra or biology.

"Additionally, computing jobs are the best-paying, fastest-growing and largest source of all new wages in the U.S.," she said by email Friday.

"Code.org'ssion is to expand access to computer science to all students," she said, "and increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities with the goal of giving every child the same opportunity to become future innovators and leaders."

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Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times

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