Reflecting on PETE&C

Last week, I presented with some colleagues at the PA Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C) and took some time to attend some other sessions and visit some poster sessions.  I wandered into a student poster session where K-12 students were sharing projects they had worked on at their schools.  While there were many informative and educational sessions that I attended during the conference, the students from East Vincent Elementary School in Spring City, PA really inspired me.  Over 1200 elementary students at East Vincent participated in the “Hour of Code” last December and several students were selected to represent the school at PETE&C.

For those of you who may not know, the Hour of Code is an annual international event intended to inspire students to take interest in computer science.  Last year, almost 5 million students in 356 different countries participated in the event.  According to the student presenters, every student at East Vincent Elementary participated in the 2013 event.  The kindergarten students participated by using a free iPad app called Kodable where students wrote simple programs to solve puzzles and direct small animals through mazes.  Upper elementary students at the school used the coding tutorials on the Hour of Code website to learn to write simple JavaScript programs.  More advanced students were able to develop their own games using Scratch.  The projects the students showed were pretty impressive.  I was particularly inspired by a 5th grade student who proudly watched as I navigated a game he had created.

As I walked away, I began wondering when coding will become one of the essentials that needs to be taught in ALL elementary schools.  With the number of computer science careers projected in the future, is it essential for all of our students to have some background in programming?  As someone who has played around with various programming languages in his lifetime, I can easily see the benefits that learning to code can provide for our students.  Programming teaches critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and so many other transferable skills.  Maybe it’s time for coding to become a standard part of the K-12 curriculum.

But a massive curricular change like this has huge implications for those of us working in teacher education, instructional technology and even across the broader higher education spectrum.  For example, how do we train teachers at all grade levels to teach students to code?  Also, what does this shift in focus mean for instructional technology courses?  Traditionally, these courses are where teachers are typically taught how to leverage technology to support student learning.  Should these courses also teach basic coding?  Lastly, if the curricula in K-12 schools shifts so that all students graduate with at least some rudimentary background in programming, how will that impact the courses, programs of study and expectations of students entering institutions of higher education?  Will it?

Certainly, the answers to these questions are several years down the road.  For now, I’ll rejoice in the excitement and energy of the students from East Vincent Elementary School.  Who know, maybe one of them will become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or go on to create the next Flappy Birds or Candy Crush.  With such an early foray into coding, almost anything is possible.


2 thoughts on “Reflecting on PETE&C

  1. Pingback: Apps for Learning to Code |

  2. Pingback: The Hour of Code approaches |

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