Saturday, March 24, 2018

Columbus Middle School students wait for a live video chat with R&B artist Usher on Thursday, Dec. 11. The video chat is part of the Hour of Code program introducing students to the basics of computer programming.

Learning the language of coding

Students at Columbus Middle School were practicing a new language in their English Language Arts (ELA) class last week.
ELA students participated in the Hour of Code, a program designed to demystify computer programming and to show students that anyone can learn the basics of coding.
Columbus students this year also had the added bonus of a live video chat about computer science with R&B singer and songwriter Usher. Columbus was one of eight schools from around the country to participate in the video chat.
According to Hour of Code promotional material, “Usher is a singer and songwriter who is passionate about giving youth access to computer science education.”
Christi Longin first used the Hour of Code program with her ELA students last year. Longin said her sister, a computer science teacher in South Carolina, brought the Hour of Code to her attention. After some research and experimenting with the site, Longin decided to have her students participate in the Hour of Code last year.
“I decided to promote the Hour of Code through my ELA class this year because my experience with it last year helped me to recognize that coding truly is a language of its own,” Longin said. “Thus, by asking our students to participate in the Hour of Code, we would be asking them to use their reading and writing skills to learn a new language. It fit perfectly. And thus, all of our ELA teachers opted to participate in this computer science event.”
The response from students at Columbus Middle School has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Longin said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said student Josie Wells.
“You have to really get into it to figure out what to do,” said student Breanna Porter. “It keeps your mind active.”
Student Carter Beer said coding teaches you to be patient.
“Many students have asked me for additional websites to help them gain additional practice in coding,” Longin said.
Student Liz Lorash asked Usher a question from the students at Columbus Middle School.
“What inspired you to go into music,” Lorash asked, “and what advice do you have for aspiring singers?”
“What inspired me to go into music is my love and passion for it,” Usher said.
“What advice do I have for aspiring singers? You have to work at this,” Usher said. “As time is leading us more and more towards code and computer science being more relevant than anything, we cannot lose the sense of individuality and get lost. So while it’s great to have tools like Pro Tools and it’s great to have Auto-Tune and all those things, you still have to remember that the most important part is the asset that is you.”
“As the standard is changing of how we communicate and how we offer what we have as artists, you have to continue to nurture the true talent,” he said. “That means you got to work at whatever you want to do.”
Last year 15 million students from around the world tried an Hour of Code. The program, which is promoted by the non-profit, is dedicated to the vision that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer programming,” according to the website.