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The Lake News Online
  • Chatting with a technology visionary

  • Several Osage Middle School students were part of a worldwide computer science project that made world history as part of the Hour of Code project, a movement to expose students in K-12 grades to coding and programming.
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  • The School of the Osage continues to be involved with making history.
    Not too many weeks ago, OHS graduate Mike Tompkins blasted into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to spend several months on the International Space Station. That was a first for an Osage student.
    Now, several Osage Middle School students were part of a worldwide computer science project that made world history as part of the Hour of Code project, a movement to expose students in K-12 grades to coding and programming. An estimated 15 million students participated, and The Hour of Code has become the fastest-spreading technology in history, according to organizers.
    Hour of Code is an introduction to computer science designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.
    Dr. Laura Nelson, assistant superintendent at Osage, shared the school's participation in the Hour of Code Project at Tuesday night's regular board of education meeting.
    "This is why it's so important to pay attention to social media," she told the board.
    Jodi Tompkins, the OMS Computer 2 teacher, discovered the Hour of Code movement on her Twitter feed back in October.
    "So, seeing it on Twitter and because I have taught technology/computer classes for 20 years, I felt strongly about exposing my students and promoting the project as well," she said. "I signed my class up and our name was chosen to participate out of 35,000 classrooms."
    Hadi Partovi of Code.org led the Hour of Code Project, which initially sought to involve 10 million students but ultimately involved 15 million. The project was considered the largest initiative of its kind and was backed by Microsoft, Apple, Google, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Boys and Girls Clubs and 100 other partners.
    Partovi started the challenge because of a lack of computer science classes being taught in the public schools and having a limited number of qualified employees to fill 1.4 million potential programming jobs in the future. Code.org partnered with Microsoft, Scratch, MIT, Tynker and other companies to write coding tutorials for K-12 schools.
    The tutorials are designed for introductory to advanced knowledge and do not require the teacher to have any prior coding knowledge. They are intended to spark an interest in coding and teaching students that coding is not difficult. In today's world there are three jobs for every one student joining the workforce, she explained. Less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science,
    Because of the class' participation in the Hour of Code Project, it was one of eight chosen in the U.S. to have a live video chat with Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. Each class was allowed to ask one question of Gates. The OMS question was:
    Page 2 of 2 - What emerging technology today do you think will cause a major change in how we live and work?
    Gates' answer: Today, we think of computers as this thing that sits on a desk with a mouse or keyboard, or is a phone in your pocket. But as a computer has the ability to see and listen then computing becomes pervasive and even put those types of listening and seeing capabilities on robot-type devices and as the software gets smarter and smarter can use that vision and anticipate what's going on then it's amazing at what a computer can do. Then there is no limit to what they can do by helping us and do things on their own. Microsoft and Google and others are working on this and it is quite amazing. So computers won't be this desktop thing in the future."
    Others were: Parma, Ohio; Galactic - Hazelwood (Mo.) gifted program; Santa Fe Trails Elementary (Kansas); Jewish Christian High School; Central Jersey College Prep School in New Jersey; Freedom Elementary; and Burbank High School in California.
    The day after the chat, Tompkins said her students were still talking about the experience and how they were now going to focus on learning to code.
    "A couple of them even commented on going to college together to learn code then start their own business," Tompkins said. "That was a moment where in my teaching career that I knew it had a greater impact then I would ever know. Bill influenced these kids in a way that inspired them to reach for their goals, be persistent and realized that they are only limited by their imaginations."
    The opportunity was a chance of a lifetime for students, Tompkins explained.
    "For kids to get to interact with one of tech's highest-regarded experts was amazing," she added. "The students hung on every word that Bill said, and one message that seemed to shine through was persistence, to never give up, that even his first program he wrote was awful. But you can do it and make a difference."
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