Coding for kids class preps America's high-tech workers

Published: Nov. 16, 2016 at 12:24 PM CST
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America is hungry for computer programmers which, unfortunately, are in short supply. It is a problem Jason Bierle, a Canyon Lake Elementary School teacher, hopes to help solve.

Bierle introduces his fifth grade students to a possible career in computer coding.

“We're really excited to get kids into some coding this year,” Bierle said. “We think about it as this abstract - engineer-only, scientist-only field. That's really not the case.”

They use a program called Hopscotch to drag and drop elements into their own apps. While these are just basic skills today, the lessons learned open doors to future possibilities.

“I'm not excellent but ... pretty good,” fifth grader Josiah Williams said. “I don't know how to do everything but I know how to do most of it.”

By the time Williams is done with his financial game app he will know even more about computer coding.

“Students, as long as they can figure out what they want their game to do, what instructions they have to give it, they're coding. We are trying to instill that at an early age,” Bierle explained.

Bierle got the idea for a coding class from a technology conference. And with every Canyon Lake student having daily access to tablets, introducing coding to kids was easy.

“It's not necessary but it makes it a lot easier for us to operate programs like this," Bierle said.

Hopscotch helps as well by keeping coding simple; allowing students to quickly assess their newfound skills.

“I like to see what you can do. Part of the challenge is 'Can you make it bend or jump or walk?’” fifth grader Sydney Schendzielos said.

“Really, it's teaching basic concepts that they'll use later when they get into more-complex coding classes,” Bierle added.

A career in coding can be quite lucrative. According to the u-s bureau of labor statistics, the nationwide average salary is just under $80,000 a year; about$ 53,000 in South Dakota.

“They know they can be a computer programmer. They can work in the IT field. Its growing and all these 21st century skills that we're learning with it; problem solving, computational thinking are just great byproducts of this coding activity.

Some of the students are advanced enough, having dabbled in coding on their own, to help their fellow coders.

“Me and my brother used to go on something called Scratch all the time and we'd code. Yeah ... I've coded before,” Schendzielos said.

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