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TMCNet:  Writing in code [The Decatur Daily, Ala.]

[December 15, 2013]

Writing in code [The Decatur Daily, Ala.]

(Decatur Daily (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 15--MOULTON -- There wasn't much chatter in the computer lab at Lawrence County High on Friday morning as students plugged away at their screens.

More than 600 Lawrence County High students were exposed to computer programming as part of "Hour of Code," a nationwide campaign sponsored by a non-profit group called code.org. Students from Speake, Mount Hope and Oak Park Middle schools also participated.


Students used a JavaScript program to advance to new levels of a game. The program forced them to learn Java commands to navigate their way through a trial-and-error process.

"It's very simple, but it makes them see what coding is," computer science teacher Gina McCarley said.

Lawrence County High is one of 10 schools in the state that teaches an advanced computer science course. The state Board of Education voted Thursday to allow two computer science courses to count as math credit for high school graduation beginning next school year.

There are expected to be 1.4 million computer programming jobs by 2020, according to code.org.

"People have this misconception that you've got to be a genius to do those jobs," McCarley said. "I want them to see the job opportunities. It's especially good for girls and minorities." Code.org estimates that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer programming.

McCarley said students need exposure to different careers so they can be prepared for a changing job market.

"With everything that's happening in our county and with International Paper closing, I think this is the perfect time for students to see options," she said. "Nobody even knew what coding was." Junior Siresa Cole said she didn't know coding was behind so many products, including websites and mobile apps.

"The fact that you can create a whole new world with coding -- it's just crazy," she said.

Senior Issac Smith already has taken steps toward a welding career, but said he realized computer programming could be another career possibility.

"I'm not good with computers," he said. "I'm actually surprised I can learn how to do this." Oak Park Middle of Decatur students created interactive holiday cards using Scratch programming software, which were sent electronically to teachers, family and friends, said Robin Gillespie, a gifted education specialist.

Meredith Qualls can be reached at 256-340-2442 or mqualls@decaurdaily.com.

___ (c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) Visit The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) at www.decaturdaily.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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