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John Brown Francis 6th grade programmed to win $1,000
Kelcy Dolan
Warwick Beacon photo
COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS: Karen Monteiro’s sixth grade class at John Brown Francis Elementary has started on the path to becoming computer programmers. The students participated in “Hour of Code,” an online program that teaches students how to code a computer. For all their success, the class was awarded $1,000 toward new technology in the classroom. Monteiro is planning to buy tablets and a web cam for the classroom. Monteiro is pictured above with her class on the last day of school.

John Brown Francis School sixth graders in the class of Karen Monteiro are on their way to becoming computer programmers.

Hour of Code challenged classrooms all over the country to complete their online program that teaches students how to code computer programs and software in a fun and engaging way.

Code.org, a nonprofit that focuses on expanding and educating the computer sciences in schools, initiated the program. Code.org aims to have programming as a core curriculum subject [90 percent of schools don’t, according to Code.org] in our computer and software dependent world.

According to Code.org, the number of computer jobs is rising three times faster than the number of graduates with a degree in computer sciences.

The creator of Code.org, Hadi Partovi, said, “Whether your trying to make a lot of money or whether you just want to change the world, computer programming is an incredibly empowering skill to learn.”

With fun games and puzzles the sixth graders learned the various ways to code a computer, making different images then making the images move around through the 15- to 25-hour program.

In December, Monteiro began coding with real world objects, red solo cups. The cups would be set in a specific tower and directions had to be given to another student who could not see the tower to replicate it. This allowed the students to familiarize themselves with terminology and basic concepts of coding.

At the start of February the class began the Hour of Code program on computers, using the chrome book cart at John Brown Francis every Friday.

“We were given a different puzzle on every level that we had to solve and they kept getting harder. You had to figure out the code,” said Maeve Molloy, a sixth grader in the class. “Sometimes it was just getting a character to move or complete some other action, dig a hole, remove a pile.”

When asked about the program, the kids started jumping with excitement. It was obvious how proud they were of their accomplishments. They described all the different themes, angry birds, plants versus zombies, drawing and so on.

On each level a student was working toward one of 27 “mastery trophies.” The majority of the class finished the program receiving all 27 trophies by the end of May. Ethan Dillon was the first to finish in the beginning of March and other students completed the program quickly after. The class average was 24.4 out of 27 master trophies.

“The great thing about the program is that it lets each kid work as fast as they wanted or as slow as they needed to for their skill level. Their accounts were synched to mine so I could watch and monitor their progress over time, it’s inspiring,” Monteiro said.

Because 15 or more of Monteiro’s students finished the program, she was awarded $750 to use on DonorsChoose.org. This website allows for public school teachers to hold fundraisers online to get technology, art supplies, or even for field trips to the public. Teachers can support one another across schools, grade and districts and the public can also help their children’s schools.

Monteiro also earned another $250 because over seven of her students were girls. Because computer science is such a male-dominated field, Code.org wants to promote women and girls to become interested in programming and offered the extra monetary award.

Monteiro said, “My girls have such a bright future; they did so well at this. Boys are natural video gamers and attracted to this type of learning, but we really tried to promote this to show that girls are just as good at this sort of thing and they have an avenue in this just as much as anyone else.”

All together, Monteiro and her class earned $1,000 through Code.org for DonorsChoose.org. She is planning to buy five Nexus Google Tablets, a web cam, and a tripod that will be sent to the school at the beginning of next year for her classroom.

The tablets will help Monteiro continue coding programs in her classroom when the chrome book cart for John Brown Francis is not available. The web cam has even bigger plans in Monteiro’s classroom for next year. She plans to have online web sessions with classrooms all over the world in an almost digital pen pal partnership.

“There is a whole big world out there for these students to experience. I want to interact with classes around the world to not only show them what students all over are going through, but also just how important education is,” she said.

DonorsChoose is also open for public donation. To help Monteiro and her sixth grade class possibly receive more tablets next year and donate to the cause, visit DonorsChoose.org and search her name.

More information on Code.org can be found on their website. The website also offers free tutorials on coding for beginners on their website.

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