This week dozens of Vermont schools have been participating in a global effort to underscore the importance of technology to future job skills.
The project called The Hour Of Code is designed to serve as an introduction to computer science.
A couple of generations ago code was the stuff of spies, or ham radio enthusiasts.
“Code is computer programming and stuff like that,” says Northfield third grader Brianna Norton.
Code – the language of computer programming - is seen as a critical skill for people of Brianna’s generation.
The goal of the Hour Of Code is to give students a short tutorial in writing code.
In Northfield the school chose to have sixth and seventh graders teach the other students.
“We’re teaching coding all the way down to kindergarten all the way up to 12th graders,” says school counselor Jerry Cassels. “It’s really important for students to learn code because it involves all of the major 21st century skills of communication, collaboration and creativity.”
Among the students making the rounds to teach others is sixth grade student Brittany Weston. She says it was fun to put her math skills to work to create something: A simple circle using computer code.
“You kind of feel like you’re part of the technology while you’re doing it. You can make something,” says Weston.
The code lessons are geared to students’ ages. For younger ones, like these Northfield third graders, it involves dragging icons to alter the course of a character that moves around on a screen. It looks like a game, but Brody Delmas seemed to get point.
“You got to code it around and if you did it wrongly, it said, ‘oops, try again’,” he explains.
Seventh grader Amara Freeman says learning computer code is like learning a language. It’s best done when you’re young.
“By the time I’m an adult, everything is going to be based on technology and coding. It’s best to learn it now,” she says.
Peter Drescher, the education technology coordinator with the Agency of Education says he’s pleased Vermont schools have been participating in this week’s computer science initiative.
Generally though there’s a shortage of computer programming instruction in Vermont schools that the state wants to address.
“In talking to students, many of the students are saying that one of the things they wish they had more of is programming courses,” says Drescher.
One issue is a lack of people qualified to teach computer programming.
At Northfield Elementary School, seventh grader Cam Bean seems well-qualified to teach the third graders he's working with. They may not be thinking of their future but Bean is.
“Most careers then, they predict, will be a lot of computer stuff. If they can do this, they can use Word, they can use PowerPoint, they can do all of that. But they have to take the first few steps and learn this,” he says.
Organizers say the Northfield participants were among 10 million students from 170 countries who took part in this week’s event.