Carson McCaffrey knows his way around the inner workings of computer programs.
To McCaffrey, a sophomore at Central York High School, the computer codes aren't mumbo-jumbo. They're a language of letters and symbols that he says are a part of his future. And, according to a global push to teach students computer programming, it is a language that is going to benefit those who are fluent.
Team effort:McCaffrey is part of the iTeam at the high school, a group of about 10 students who worked with Technology Support Specialist Debbie Bieber to introduce the Hour of Code sessions throughout the school district this week.
For Bieber, the effort is an important one, and an area in which she hopes to see increased student interest.
"Computer science is a valid subject for core curriculum," she said.
Coding future:According to information from Kodable, a company that creates tools and games to teach children computer coding, in 10 years there will be 1.4 million jobs that require people trained in computer science. Current projections show that only 400,000 people will have the necessary training, which leaves a window of 1 million jobs left for those who start to learn coding now.
The Hour of Code program is a worldwide initiative, spearheaded by a nonprofit organization called Code.org, to encourage students in kindergarten through 12th grade to spend at least an hour learning the basics of computer science.
Bieber demonstrates some of the programs students can use to learn the code on her iPad, showing Kodable's game meant for children between the ages of 4 and 7. Bieber said that age range is prime to begin learning computer programming.
But those children aren't looking at a screen full of symbols: Instead, they're tapping on directional arrows to make a fuzzy black creature move to the right, to the left, or up and down.
Bieber said Central York's efforts are district-wide: Elementary and middle school teachers were given ideas for incorporating the coding into class time. Students at the high school used their 45-minute Academic Prep periods at the end of the day to experiment with computer programming. Instead of meeting with clubs or teachers, students were encouraged to spend time using apps that teach the basic commands behind creating a website or game.
Intern project:McCaffrey is enrolled in AP Java, an Advanced Placement elective that teaches the code on a daily basis. His classmate, Alyssa McDevitt, is also a part of the iTeam and is Bieber's intern for the semester.
McDevitt created a website specifically for Central students participating in the Hour of Code activities. McDevitt said she spent about a day putting the website together, but the real work was researching all of the available resources and activities for students around the district. For the junior, the Hour of Code is a chance to show her friends that computer programming isn't what they think it is.
"We want to get rid of that stereotype - the nerdy guy who sits in his basement and types all day," McDevitt said.
Future plans:McDevitt would like to eventually teach computer science classes, but in Pennsylvania, those teachers must earn a math degree first.
McDevitt said she would like to see a certification in place that focuses more on the nuances of computer programming than mastering statistics or geometry.
McCaffrey also has his plans mapped out: He would like to attend Penn State and major in computer science while also participating in the Navy ROTC program. That way, he will have an opportunity to work in the military intelligence field upon graduation.
McDevitt and McCaffrey said they hope the computer classes at Central will gain more interest through the activities this week: They said there have been multiple semesters when the electives haven't been offered because not enough students signed up for them.
For all ages:Bieber said she hopes the movement will inspire people of all ages to experiment with code: With all of the free learning tools available online, she said, there's a huge opportunity to learn the language that is running every cell phone, website and computer game.
To see some of the tutorials and games available for free, check out Central York's website dedicated to the event at pantherprogrammers.weebly.com.
- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.