Last week, 12/9/2013 - 12/15/2013, was Computer Science Education Week, which is a national campaign to encourage students to learn how to code or write a program.
I had the opportunity to teach middle school students at the William Davies Middle School in Mays Landing, NJ how to code. I am so proud to have been a part of this campaign. My students were excited, engaged, and enthusiastic about coding. They all did a FANTASTIC job and I am proud of each of them!
The first day, I asked them, what is a computer program and what is its purpose? I explained to them that it is a set of instructions with a purpose. Some examples are to create an alarm clock app, create a game, or to produce a report. I compared a computer program to a recipe, in that each ingredient is vital and must be completed in a sequence.
In addition, I introduced proper terminology and provided an explanation of them. I spoke to the class using these terms so they would become more acquainted with the vocabulary and use it appropriately. A few of the terms are listed below:
- Source code
- tags and commands
- execute and run
- debug and troubleshoot
- inequalities and special symbols
- GUI (graphical user interface)
The Hour of Code campaign gave my students the opportunity to experience the following:
- learn to code complex instructions using logic
- pay attention to small details because every detail counts
- collaborate and communicate with each other to help write and debug their program
- use critical thinking skills
- ask three classmates then ask me
I wanted to teach the students how to code HTML. I feel this is important because most or all of the students use the Internet and may have seen HTML code in their experience. (It is important for the students to connect to the lesson.) I compared the tasks I had them code to Microsoft Word. I instructed the students to use Notepad as their editor to write the code.
The students learned how to code the following tasks in HTML:
- a title on the title bar
- insert a line break
- insert a horizontal line
- insert an image and size it
- insert a comment
- insert an ordered list with numbered items
- formatting text such as; color, size, center justify, underline, bold
They learned that HTML commands are called tags, and that many of the tags have a begin tag and an end tag. In addition, they quickly learned the importance of using the correct syntax in programming. After they coded, they seemed to like the fact they were able to execute the program and see immediate results. If their results were correct, they helped other students who were having difficulties. If their results were incorrect, they were able to troubleshoot and debug their source code.
Furthermore, students learned about file names especially file extensions. They needed to save their program as a .html file or else their program would not execute. I explained to them that each file type or extension is unique and is identifiable to a specific application. I explained to them it is important not to include spaces in the filename or else the program would not execute. That was the perfect time to mention the importance of details.
The last day of the week, we were able to complete our program. They had coded a simple webpage using Notepad that had horizontal lines, formatted text, an ordered list, and an image. I challenged them to continue with their quest using HTML and other GUI interfaces, such as Scratch
In conclusion, Computer Science Education Week, the Hour of Code was AWESOME!!!! I am so proud of all of the students who learned and wrote HTML code. I do believe the students were proud of themselves too!