AP NEWS

Computer science not your usual song and dance

October 20, 2018

HARLINGEN — It’s not just another song and dance.

It’s a real-world experience, a code Noe Longoria inserted into the computer to make a stick figure on a micro:bit stop dancing and make the buzzer start singing when the lights are too bright.

“ It’s just amazing,” said Noe, 12, a seventh grader in Patty Galvan’s computer science class at Coakley Middle School.

“ I’m coding it to tell it what to do,” said Noe as he shifted his cursor across the computer screen.

“ I like it a lot,” he added. “It’s fun to experience this.”

The Harlingen school district is offering the computer science course for innovators and makers for the first time this year at all five middle schools. Galvan said it’s going well.

“ What computer science is, it’s showing how they use everyday things, like how lights in the garden may go down because sensors in them make the lights turn off,” she said. “We are teaching them things like how they are programmed.”

This is the second part of a program that began last year. That’s when the district offered the “apps creators” program at the middle school level. That course taught students how to design applications utilizing coding skills, said Joseph Villarreal, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

“ This computer science class teaches more of the computational thinking behind the computer science,” Villarreal said. “It’s a set of two courses that our students are enrolled in. This is the second phase of it.”

Some students, like Aidan Helforoush, are taking both classes at the same time.

“ I like coding,” said Aidan, 12. “I have experience with my father. We do it at home. We have the right materials for this. This will help me create apps with my father.”“

The purpose of both classes extends beyond computer skills.

“ It builds upon computational thinking but also allows them to become better thinkers and communicators,” Villarreal said. “They basically work together to design solutions to real-world problems. These classes allow them to create those solutions utilizing computational thinking.”

The classes are part of the Harlingen district’s Strategic Plan to offer more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes as well as authentic learning experiences.

twhitehead@valleystar.com