Shackelford JH students participate in Hour of Code with bond-funded technology

Students work on their Chromebooks during the Hour of Code.

Students work on their Chromebooks during the Hour of Code.

It didn’t take long for a Shackelford Junior High student to realize that different types of learning can be fun – and that his teacher may have actually been right.

“It was fun when I realized what the teacher had been telling us: ‘The computer only does what you tell it to do.’”

That was one Shackelford Junior High student’s reaction after participating in an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week, an activity made feasible by the 2014 Bond program.

“I learned that coding isn’t complicated and is actually fun,” Shackelford student Serena O. said.

All Shackelford students participated in the Hour of Code, joining thousands of other students in over 180 countries. The Hour of Code, a one-hour introductory lesson in computer programming – the largest learning event in history – is designed to inspire interest in computer science and foster critical skills for 21st-century success.

Spearheaded by school librarian Alicia Vandenbroek, Shackelford is becoming a local leader in computer science education. The junior high offers a computer programming club and incorporates programming into its library makerspace.

And, for the second year in a row, Vandenbroek hosted the Hour of Code to make sure each of the school’s 710 students gets to experience programming.

“Exposing students to programming is critical,” she said. “Computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet, but fewer than half of all schools teach computer science. Girls and minorities are severely underrepresented in computer science classes and in the tech industry. But the good news is, we’re on our way to changing this.”

The Bond 2014 program is also playing a role in changing this, equipping Shackelford and all AISD schools with the technology they need to teach for the 21st century – and to participate in learning opportunities like Hour of Code. The bond includes new technology for every AISD classroom and teacher, along with carts of either iPads or Chromebooks for every two classrooms, so most of the Chromebook computers used at Shackelford for the Hour of Code were bond-funded. It’s also funding additional bandwidth and wireless capacity at each school, along with Transformation Through Innovation Grants awarded to teachers who come up with innovative ways to use technology as educational tools.

[Read more about the TI Grant and how Shackelford has used the grant to enhance its makerspace.]

“We want to make sure there are no barriers to our students learning,” said Barry Fox, AISD director of instructional technology. That means the district will strive to provide access to whatever technology is most helpful for students and promote a culture in which students are using and engaging technology on a daily basis.

In today’s world, students will engage and use technology on a daily basis, whether they have access to it in the classroom or not. That’s why an event like Hour of Code is so important. It takes students behind the technology they use everyday and demonstrates how it works. It also starts them on the path to developing critical technology skills they will need in an increasingly technology-based society.

Shackelford students are getting it.

“I think it’s a good idea.” said Jessie W., a Shackelford student, about participating in the Hour of Code, “In the future our world will revolve around technology even more and we will need to know how to code.”

For many students, the coding activity was an eye-opening experience.

“At first I thought it would be hard and boring,” said Kimberly G., “but when I asked for help it got easy and fun. And I also learned how to code.”

The Hour of Code uses an online tutorial that walks students through the process of developing the code for a game. Practical and educational, it also makes learning “fun.”

“The student engagement involved was very high, and the students enjoyed the experience,” said Shackelford teacher Karla Hill.

"I thought it was awesome!” said Kaden, one of Hill’s eighth-grade students. “I actually created a Flappy Bird game and shared it with my friends. I'm currently working on a Star Wars game, too."

Another eighth-grade student, Jared, said, “I really like the step by step [logical thought] process that it takes to do coding."

Students weren’t the only ones who learned and enjoyed the experience. Math teacher Angelique Bell did the coding activity alongside her students and found the exercise extremely worthwhile.

“Being a math teacher, we don't have as much time to devote to coding,” she said. “I was thankful for the opportunity to see the other side of my students’ personality and expertise. The students loved it and were looking forward to more coding the next day. We will make time soon for more coding. Anyone can learn to code. Even me.”

[See more photos from the Hour of Code.]