Coding at Schools

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All 25 schools in the Kyrene Elementary School District are participating in an event to teach students computer coding. It is a chance for students to learn how to write code and why it’s important. Jan Vesely, superintendent of the Kyrene District, Dick Foreman, president of the Arizona Coalition on Business and Education, and Madeline Gibson, an eighth grader at the Kyrene Altadeña Middle School will discuss the project.

CHRISTINA ESTES: MONDAY MARKS A SPECIAL DAY FOR MANY SCHOOLS, INCLUDING ALL 25 IN THE KYRENE ELEMENTARY DISTRICT. THEY'LL FOCUS ON CODING CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE CODE AND LEARN WHY IT'S IMPORTANT. HERE TO TALK ABOUT ALL THAT IS JAN VESELY, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE KYRENE DISTRICT, DICK FOREMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE ARIZONA BUSINESS AND EDUCATION COALITION, AND MADELINE GIBSON, AN 8TH GRADER AT THE KYRENE ALTADENA MIDDLE SCHOOL. THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING HERE. MADELINE IS IMPRESSING ME ALREADY BUT WE'RE GOING TO START FIRST WITH THE SUPERINTENDENT. TELL ME WHAT'S PLANNED NEXT WEEK. WHAT'S GOING ON?

JAN VESELY: WE'RE VERY EXCITED BECAUSE ALL 25 OF OUR SCHOOLS WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMPUTER SCIENCE WEEK WHICH BEGINS DECEMBER 5th AND WILL LAST THROUGH DECEMBER 11th. AND ALL OF OUR 25 SCHOOLS IN KYRENE WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE HOUR OF CODING, WHICH GIVES KIDS AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE EXPOSED TO CODING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT THE DISTRICT. SO WE'RE VERY EXCITED BECAUSE CODING ALLOWS KIDS TO TAKE THEIR IDEAS, APPLY ALGORITHMS AND IDEAS AND CREATE THE FUTURE. WE BELIEVE IT'S AN IMPORTANT EVENT TO GET KIDS TO DEMYSTIFY WHAT CODING IS ALL ABOUT AND GET THEM VERY COMFORTABLE IN THE PROGRAMMING WORLD.

CHRISTINA ESTES: AND MADELINE HAS A GREAT EXPLANATION. I SAID, HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE CODING TO SOMEBODY?

MADELINE GIBSON: THERE ARE A SET OF INSTRUCTIONS YOU GIVE TO A COMPUTER TO DO A CERTAIN TASK.

CHRISTINA ESTES: SO A COMPUTER SPEAKS A LANGUAGE AND YOU HAVE TO TELL IT HERE IS WHAT TO DO. YOU HAVE BEEN DOING THIS ALL YOUR LIFE.

MADELINE GIBSON: YEAH, I'VE PLAYED VIDEO GAMES FOR A REALLY LONG TIME, AND IN 6th GRADE I TOOK A MULTIMEDIA COURSE WHEN I FIRST STARTED CODING AND I HAVE CONTINUED MY MULTIMEDIA COURSE INTO THE NEXT YEAR.

CHRISTINA ESTES: WHEN YOU SAY CODING, WHAT IS IT YOU ARE DOING? ARE YOU GOING AND SITTING IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER AND SAYING, DO THIS? HOW DOES IT WORK?

MADELINE GIBSON: I SIT IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER AND THEN IT GIVES ME A TASK TO DO AND I HAVE TO LINE UP CERTAIN DIRECTIONS FOR IT TO ACCOMPLISH THE TASK.

CHRISTINA ESTES: AND CODING IS NOT SOMETHING THAT'S JUST FOR A COMPUTER NERD OR A VIDEO GAME NERD OR SOMEBODY WHO GETS INTO NUMBERS. IT CAN REALLY CROSS INDUSTRIES AND CODING IS NEEDED EVERYWHERE, RIGHT?

JAN VESELY: IF YOU THINK ABOUT TECHNOLOGY IN OUR WORLD TODAY IN TERMS OF THE WORLD OF WORK, WE CONTINUOUSLY AND CONSTANTLY HAVE TECHNOLOGY TOOLS WITHIN OUR REACH TO BE ABLE TO DO ALL OF OUR JOBS. AND IT'S GOING TO BECOME EVEN MORE SIGNIFICANT FOR OUR STUDENTS TO BE VERY, VERY COMFORTABLE WITH TECHNOLOGY, BECAUSE WE REALLY BELIEVE THAT INDUSTRIES ARE GOING TO REQUIRE ALL STUDENTS TO HAVE SIGNIFICANT TECHNOLOGY, CODING AND COMPUTER SKILLS. SO IT'S INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR STUDENTS.

CHRISTINA ESTES: THAT'S A GREAT WAY TO BRING DICK FOREMAN INTO THE CONVERSATION BECAUSE YOU WORK WITH BUSINESSES AND WITH INDUSTRIES AND WITH EDUCATIONAL GROUPS. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING WHEN IT COMES TO THE TOPIC OF CODING?

DICK FOREMAN: WELL, KYRENE SHOULD BE CONGRATULATED. 90% OF THE PARENTS WANT SOME FORM OF COMPUTER SCIENCE OFFERED TO STUDENTS, AND KYRENE AT ALL 25 OF THEIR CAMPUSES IS GOING TO DO JUST THAT. BUT ONLY 40% OF ARIZONA SCHOOLS OFFER THIS. SO KYRENE IS WAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE. THEY'RE LISTENING TO THEIR PARENTS. AND THEY'RE ALSO LISTENING TO THEIR COMMUNITY BECAUSE THE BUSINESS SIDE OF -- THE BUSINESS SIDE OF NOT JUST THE TEMPE COMMUNITY BUT THE AREAS AROUND TEMPE, GILBERT, CHANDLER, IS CODING IS GOING TO BE A GREAT CAREER PATH AND IN COMPUTER SCIENCES, CODING IS A TOOL TO COMPUTER SCIENCES, IS ABSOLUTELY A GREAT CAREER PATH FOR THESE STUDENTS TO START WITH AT THE MIDDLE SCHOOL GRADES.

CHRISTINA ESTES: IF FOR NO OTHER REASON AN SALARY. I WAS LOOKING ON CODE.ORG AND IT SAYS THAT THE AVERAGE SALARY FOR PEOPLE INVOLVED IN CODING IN ARIZONA IS $85,000, AND I THINK OUR GENERAL AVERAGE IS ABOUT 45,000. SO THAT'S QUITE A DIFFERENCE.

DICK FOREMAN: WELL, AND THE CHALLENGE IS FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT AND OUR DISTRICTS -- AVONDALE HAS A GREAT PROGRAM ON THE WEST SIDE. THIS IS SOMETHING ELEMENTARY DISTRICTS ARE DOING AROUND THE STATE. THEY ALSO HAVE TO ATTRACT THE FACULTY TO TEACH THIS, AND IT IS A GREAT CAREER BUT IT'S ALSO DIFFICULT FOR THE SUPERINTENDENTS TO FIND QUALIFIED PEOPLE. SO IT'S A MAJOR KUDOS TO KYRENE TO HAVE PULLED THIS OFF.

CHRISTINA ESTES: HOW DO YOU DO THAT IF IT'S DIFFICULT TO FIND QUALIFIED PEOPLE? HOW ARE YOU FINDING THEM AND KEEPING THEM?

JAN VESELY: WELL, FORTUNATELY WITH THE MILLENNIALS, WHO HAVE GROWN UP TO BE DIGITAL NATIVES, MORE AND MORE OF THEM ARE BECOMING INTERESTED IN JOINING OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT, BUT IT IS -- IT'S SUCH A HIGH-DEMAND PROFESSION AND THERE IS SUCH A REQUEST FOR COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, COMPUTER SCIENTISTS. IT IS HARD TO RECRUIT THEM TO THE EDUCATION FIELD. BUT MANY OF OUR TEACHERS HAVE A VERY STRONG INTEREST AND HOBBY IN PROGRAMMING AS WELL AS COMPUTER SCIENCE. SO THEY, ON TOP OF THEIR OTHER ASSIGNMENTS, ARE ALSO TEACHING SECTIONS OF, AGAIN, MULTIMEDIA CLASSES, COMPUTER SCIENCE CLUBS, THINGS LIKE ROBOTICS TEAMS IN AFTER SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS. SO IT DOES SPARK THE INTEREST OF OUR STUDENTS.

CHRISTINA ESTES: IF WE LOOK AT CODING AS SORT OF BEING A LANGUAGE FOR COMPUTERS, WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE SAY EVERY CHILD MUST LEARN TO CODE? NOT EVERY CHILD SPEAKS SPANISH OR FRENCH OR GERMAN OR --

JAN VESELY: BECAUSE IT'S THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. IT IS ABSOLUTELY THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. WE ARE DOING -- WE ARE CURRENTLY DOING MIDDLE SCHOOL REDESIGN RIGHT NOW AND OUR MIDDLE SCHOOLS ARE GOING TO HAVE CODING AS A SECOND LANGUAGE IN TERMS OF A SECOND LANGUAGE ELECTIVE OFFERING. SO THAT -- BECAUSE WE REALLY DO BELIEVE THAT ALL STUDENTS REALLY DO NEED TO ACQUIRE CODING BECAUSE IT'S GOING TO BE SUCH A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE THAT WILL BE ESSENTIAL IN THE 21st CENTURY FOR THEIR JOBS, JOBS OF THE FUTURE.

CHRISTINA ESTES: MADELINE, DO YOU ENCOUNTER STUDENTS WHO ARE UNCOMFORTABLE, INTIMIDATED OR DON'T HAVE ANY INTEREST OR DON'T GET IT?

MADELINE GIBSON: YEAH. THERE'S STUDENTS THAT -- AT SCHOOL THAT DON'T REALLY LIKE COMPUTERS OR CODING WITH COMPUTERS, BUT --

CHRISTINA ESTES: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM? BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S PRETTY IMPORTANT. WE JUST HEARD THE SUPERINTENDENT TALK ABOUT EVERYBODY HAS TO KNOW THIS. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE?

MADELINE GIBSON: IT'S NOT AS HARD AS IT LOOKS, AND --

CHRISTINA ESTES: IS IT FUN AT ALL?

MADELINE GIBSON: YEAH.

CHRISTINA ESTES: WHAT MAKES IT FUN?

MADELINE GIBSON: YOU CAN USE YOUR CREATIVITY TO DESIGN A GAME OR SOMETIMES LIKE A PIECE OF ART OR SOMETHING ON THE COMPUTER, AND IT'S JUST FUN TO CREATE YOUR OWN GAME AND YOUR OWN LITTLE WEBSITE THING.

CHRISTINA ESTES: HAVE YOU CREATED A GAME OR WEBSITE?

MADELINE GIBSON: YES.

CHRISTINA ESTES: TELL ME ABOUT THE GAME.

MADELINE GIBSON: I'VE CREATED A COUPLE GAMES. I'VE CREATED LIKE SIMPLE GAMES WHERE YOU HAVE TO CREATE A CHARACTER AND THEN THE CHARACTER HAS TO DO SOMETHING SIMPLE, BUT LAST YEAR I CREATED A MAZE GAME WHERE YOU HAD TO GET -- LIKE THROUGH A MAZE WITH AVOIDING SHARP RAZOR OBJECTS BOUNCING BACK AND FORTH.

CHRISTINA ESTES: SO YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY TO CREATING GAMES WHERE YOU CAN GET PAID FOR HAVING FUN AND USING YOUR BRAIN. THANK YOU SO MUCH, REALLY APPRECIATE IT. ANY FINAL WORDS, SUPERINTENDENT OR DICK?

JAN VESELY: ACTUALLY WE HOPE SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES AND GLOBALLY WILL JOIN US IN OUR EFFORTS TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL COMPUTER SCIENCE WEEK BECAUSE IT IS THE LARGEST LEARNING EVENT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. SO WE INVITE SCHOOLS TO JOIN US.

CHRISTINA ESTES: AND QUICKLY, DICK, WHAT SHOULD BUSINESSES DO?

DICK FOREMAN: THE COMPUTER SCIENCE FIELD, IT USED TO BE YOU THOUGHT OF A DESK TOP AS A COMPUTER BUT YOUR PHONE IS A MORE POWERFUL COMPUTER THAN MANY DESKTOPS. IT'S GOING TO BE INVASIVE IN EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES AND THIS IS A BRILLIANT WAY TO ENGAGE OUR STUDENTS IN CAREERS.

CHRISTINA ESTES: THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE AND THANK YOU NOR JOINING US. HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Jan Vesely, superintendent, Kyrene Elementary School District; Dick Foreman, president, Arizona Coalition on Business and Education; Madeline Gibson, eighth grader, Kyrene Altadeña Middle School

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