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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

CODE TALKERS: Pottstown Middle School 5th-graders learn computer coding at Google event

May 16, 2017
In The News

POTTSTOWN >> Fifth-graders at Pottstown Middle School got another lesson in computer coding Monday courtesy of Google and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist.

Google delivered the Computer Science First Road Show — a computer science education presentation developed by Google for fourth- through eighth-grade students — to fifth-grade students in Pottstown.

Two Google employees delivered the hour-long presentation, which focuses on teaching students both problem-solving and technical-coding skills through a series of interactive activities.

The Roadshow teaches students about the importance of STEM education and uses interactive activities to teach them coding basics.

The presenters encouraged kids to develop an interest in computer science education by giving real-life examples of how coding and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education can lead to educational opportunities and exciting careers.

Matthew Boyer, the principal for the fifth and sixth grades at Pottstown Middle School, said this experience follows up on the “Day of Coding” event held at the school in October and organized by Laura Luzeski, the computer science teacher at Pottstown High School.

He said Google was brought to Pottstown in the wake of that experience thanks to the efforts of Costello and Community Relations Director John Armato

“I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the kids told me ‘I already do coding at home,’” said Boyer. “The kids are already up to their knees in this stuff and sometimes they’re already ahead of what we’re teaching them in school.”

Nevertheless, he said, Monday’s event, which had every student working on a Google Chromebook, not surprisingly, “took things to another level using a program called ‘Scratch.’”

Boyer said “it had them writing their own narrative using digital tools. They got to design the characters and choose what they did. They were kind of upset they only got an hour to do it. They could have done this all day,” he said.

Costello kicked off the presentation by expressing the importance of learning about computer science at an early age, and helped students build their own fun stories using Scratch, Google’s proprietary introductory coding tool.

“Learning computer science skills at a young age can equip students with valuable tools and prepare them for opportunities in some of the fastest-growing career fields in the modern workforce,” said Costello. “I enjoyed coding with students at Pottstown Middle School and seeing the creativity they applied to problem solving.”

“Kids are exposed to technology at such an early age, but don’t necessarily get to learn about why computer science should be an important part of their lives — both now and in the future,” said Charlotte Smith, a Google spokesperson. “We want the next generation of students to be able to create technology, not just consume it.”

That argument is bolstered by a new book by Wisconsin educator Heidi Williams titled “No-Fear Coding: Computational Thinking Across the K-5 Curriculum.”

The author argues waiting until college or later to learn computer coding skills is too late, and she’s started a crusade to motivate teachers to introduce these skills to students as early as kindergarten through fifth grade.

Her book presents a rationale for introducing coding to young students — to set them up for future success and prepare them for more advanced coding in middle and high school.

Williams’ argument is bolstered by a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine that details the challenges educators face when trying to prepare students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

In her book, Williams explains coding lessons that are easily incorporated into math, science, English language arts and social studies teaching. Each lesson features alignment to standards, lesson plans and worksheets, and provides explanations of coding tools, including Bee-Bots, Scratch, and ARIS.