It’s completely quiet in John Fedak’s classroom at the Learning Enrichment Center.
Third- and fourth-grade students are focused on the computer screens in front of them, headphones on, little fingers typing away as they build up skills for a job whose demand is growing at twice the national average.
They are writing computer code to create greeting cards with the assistance of Khan Academy’s Hour of Code, a free introduction to computer programming as part of Computer Science Education Week.
This is the new literacy.
“When I walked in, you could hear a pin drop,” LEC Principal Misty Weber said on Tuesday. LEC has never done a computer programming class before and participated in the Hour of Code because “it is becoming the job of the future.”
From health care to manufacturing, to video games, computer science prepares students for a number of careers. Over 70 percent of computing occupations are outside the information technology industry, according to csedweek.org, the website sponsoring the Hour of Code.
“The kids really, really like it,” Weber said.
So much so there are discussions to start a computer programming class at the LEC, she said.
Every student at LEC participated in the Hour of Code, John Fedak, LEC science teacher, said. Some of the younger students had trouble using the keyboard, but all the students did pretty well, he said.
Students were able to work at their own pace through instructional videos with challenges to complete before moving on to the next level. When students run into trouble, the course provides them with hints and instructions on how to solve the problem.
“Last week was ‘We don’t want to finish’,” Fedak said, adding that he had to remind the students they have other classes to attend.
The goal is to get students interested and involved in computer programming, because the national statistics for students graduating with degrees in computer science are not impressive. Less than 3 percent of college students graduate with a computer science degree; 57 percent of bachelors degrees are earned by women, but only 12 percent of science degrees are earned by women; 9 out 10 schools don’t offer computer programming classes; and computer science doesn’t even count towards requirements for graduation in math or science in 36 states, including Pennsylvania.
“Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st Century, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation,” the Hour of Code website said.