While the debate rages on about how much "screen time" is too much for children in their formative years , an argument can be made that Friday's Hour of Code exercise at St. Luke Catholic Elementary School is proof that there can be such a thing as good "screen time."
Kids these days will not put down their devices and are connected to the wired world in ways that were hard to imagine even a decade ago. So, educators have come up with a strategy to teach while employing the very devices that students of this age have grown up using.
Students from Sue Korosec's (or Mrs. K to her pupils) grade 6/7 class spent part of Friday afternoon learning to write computer code in a tutorial that, on the surface, provided learning strategies for skills such as computer science, mathematics and literacy, but after sitting in on the class for an hour, turned into something much more.
The students were engaged. All of them. No emergency bathroom breaks, no attention lapses.They were smiling, enjoying doing their schoolwork. The exercise involved technology, but that was not the sole focus. The students laughed, asked for advice, were proud of their creations, and most of all encouraged and helped one another (see gallery above).
Despite the fact that Mayor Al McDonald, St. Luke's principal Jennifer Rachmann, three members of the media and various other adults were lingering in their classroom, the students were focused on their tasks.
Peter Anello, the school board's technology guru, says the initiative is a year-long endeavour, that will reach far beyond what was on display Friday.
"We will come back after Christmas, not to just this class, but to other classes to show the students how this can tie-in to measurements, geometry, procedural writing, it's all relative to their learning, it's not just about playing games," explained Anello.
Anello relayed that a club has popped up for students who have taken to coding. "Twice a week, during their breaks, the students come in with preset activities for them to complete and to add to their skill sets."
Coding also provides opportunities for students, especially quiet or shy students, to express themselves via a different medium. Anello points to the coding club theme of storytelling in which characters are created and communicate with one another, and adds, "It allows them to express their ideas in the form of a story through computer programming."
For more information on the Scratch computer programming resource used by the students, click here.