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MISD students relay coding messages
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · May 25th, 2017

Fifth grade Vernon Middle School math teacher Dana Phillips teaches her students computer coding at least once a week. Coding is using algorithms to program a machine to do specific tasks.

"This is the first year we are doing a curriculum on coding," Phillips said. "I think students love to problem solve. They love to see the results once they have completed a program and it runs correctly." The students also "love it because it uses themes they can relate to." For 19 weeks, the students utilize on the classroom's 10 iPads and 16 Chromebooks.

Phillips' students told her how they like the challenges each new computer coding level brings as they cannot pass to the next level if they use too many steps. She said the students also told her time goes by fast when they code, and they feel a sense of accomplishment as they reach a new level. In addition, Phillips mentioned, "Parents are very happy their children are learning this life skill."

According to Phillips, coding is a step-by-step process, requiring logic, reasoning, and perseverance in problem solving. "If they run their code and it doesn't do the task, the students know they made a mistake and must go through the code to find it."

The children also practice teamwork by completing hands-on coding challenges, such as the one-time coding relay challenge on Friday, May 12, where teamwork and debugging (finding mistakes) was emphasized. "They had to be fast, which is like a deadline, read the person's code before them, and fix mistakes if there were any," she said. The next step is transferring the information they learned outside to their computers.

Phillips said her goal is to help her students build knowledge of coding in Courses I and II this year. "Next year I want to introduce coding using different languages like Python and Java. These goals will help our students in the future to be comfortable in learning new computer languages that will apply to their workplace."

Some 5th and 6th grade teachers received coding course training on May 17. "So that is very exciting," Phillips said. "Right now at Vernon, there are a few other teachers who are doing some instructions, but nothing formal."

In addition, some individual benefits of understanding coding include the ability to create a personal website, start a business, or become a career coder. 'CODING-Mr. Carlson's 4th Grade Website' says, "Understanding how software and coding works is definitely valuable for anyone, in any walk of life."
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