By Briana Vannozzi
With the click of a mouse and a few key strokes, students are coding their own video games.
When asked what kind of game he was making, third-grader Logan Sweeney from Logan Elementary said, “Um, a flappy bird game. We get to change the ground and stuff.”
“Computer science is a big field. Not a lot of people are filling those jobs so again our job this week is to pique the interest of students to see if this is something they wanna do when they get older,” said Logan Township Schools Instructional Technology Specialist Greg Adams.
“I think it’s kind of like tricking you into playing and tricking you into getting smarter and learning so it’s actually kind of fun,” said Logan Middle School seventh-grader Kennedy Polk.
Logan Township is just one of the 1,100 New Jersey schools with K through 12 students participating in Hour of Code statewide.
“And then after it turns right by 180 degrees, so we’re gonna try it and see if it works,” said a seventh-grader Madison Richardson. “If it’s like a beginner’s code like I’m doing now, it only takes one or two or three tries to get it right.”
Using the coding commands, Richardson tries it again.
“Sometimes you just have to keep on going and try different codes. And there, it’s a perfect snowflake,” she said.
Learning to code used to mean writing lines and lines and lines of algorithms. Not now.
“Code.org makes it drag and drop so, when they drag and drop these certain blocks it makes the character on the screen do things and they can then see what the code looks like that they have just written. It’s kind of a cool idea,” said Logan Township Schools IT Education Support Manager Rob Revell.
Code.org is the mastermind behind the movement.
This week President Obama joined several Newark and Brooklyn students to try his hand at coding.
“Every student I talked to has loved it, even if it isn’t someone who has said, ‘Oh that’s something I want to pursue.’ They like seeing their work come to life and that’s really what Hour of Code has been about for them,” said Logan Middle School Principal Heather Moran.
“I’m actually trying to keep my grades up so I can get into GCIT, Gloucester County Institute of Technology. Get in there for coding and engineering,” said seventh-grader Robert Robinson.
Robinson got his start a couple years ago in the fifth grade, when he spent the summer tweaking code on the Angry Birds app on his iPad.
When it was pointed out that people three to four times his age that have no idea how to do that, he said, “Yup, like my mom.”
“I did a snake game at home and a pong game at home,” said seventh-grader Domenic Provost. When asked how long it took him, he said, “Honestly not that long. Maybe a few hours.”
“The younger you are, the easier it’s gonna be so we’re trying to start them very, very young, get them interested in it. So by the time they’re in middle school, it’s a piece of cake,” Adams said.
New Jersey is one of 25 states where computer science isn’t counted toward high school graduation credits. But teachers say there are future coders within these classroom walls, and the discussion has been sparked to begin including it in the curriculum.