Muldown Elementary School received a $10,000 grant for technology improvements as a part of Computer Science Education Week. The Whitefish school joined thousands of others across the country this month to take part in an “Hour of Code” in an effort to help students better understand the science and art behind computer programs.
Students at Muldown first began writing code last year and computer technology teacher Gary Carmichael said the school is pleased with the progress that it’s made so far.
“In the computer lab the kids are really excited and always giving each other high-fives because they just love figuring this stuff out,” Carmichael said.
Source code is used to program computers and other technical applications. Using letters and symbols, a programmer can instruct a computer what to do.
“Learning code will open doors to future careers, but it will also help these students in their future schooling,” Carmichael said.
During Muldown’s regular technology class, students learn general computer literacy. This month, they began doing 30 minutes of code every week using programs at Code.org. One of the most basic programs on the website, which is sponsored by major tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, has students move a character from the Angry Birds game across the screen. The students use commands like “move forward,” “move right,” and “move left” and stack them into lines of code. They then press a run button and watch the bird move. According to Code.org and Computer in the Core, roughly 90 percent of schools do not teach students how to code computers and that lack of education could impact the ability of America to compete in the global economy.
Earlier this year, Carmichael submitted his lesson plans to Code.org. A few weeks ago, the non-profit informed the school that it would be the only one in Montana to receive a $10,000 grant. Carmichael said the money would be used to purchase new computers. He said the school’s computers are actually older than most of the students.
“The computers we have now work, but it’ll be nice to get some newer ones,” he said.
Principal Linda Whitwright said school officials were shocked to find out they had won the grant and planned on continuing to offer computer education classes in the future.
“Computers are how we communicate and collaborate in the future,” Whitwright said. “And what’s great about coding is it’s not gender specific. Guys and gals can go as far as they want in the business.”