by Hannah Black

Thanks to an innovative partnership with the University of West Georgia, Carrollton Elementary School (CES) students have an exciting opportunity to build their technology skills.

Child's hands typing at a computerAfter the school’s educators realized there was a need for coding instruction at a young age, they began having discussions about how to get children interested in technology. The conversations prompted UWG’s Richards College of Business and the West Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center to partner, bringing the CES Coding Club to life.

Dr. Jeannie Pridmore, associate professor of management information systems at UWG, volunteered to facilitate the club. The club started during the 2017-18 school year with 18 second-grade students meeting every Monday for 10 weeks. This past year, the coding club expanded to include approximately 30 second- and third-graders.

Pridmore creates curriculum and projects for the students to develop programming skills using a program developed at MIT called Scratch. She said her goal is for the students to gain awareness, excitement, and understanding of technology and what they can produce with it.

Scratch allows the students to be creative while learning the basics of programming. Some of the specific skills they work on are algorithms, programming loops and how to trigger events and generate variables.

“Hopefully, creating and building these logical thought processes at a young age will lead to critical thinking skills that will one day help them to solve some of our big global problems,” Pridmore said.

The Coding Club also works to raise interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields at a young age. While CES has science and math teams, the Coding Club is the only technology-based club at the school. Pridmore believes people today are hesitant about technology as a whole, especially programming, so she makes sure the club incorporates projects children can easily access on their own at home.

“I am especially excited to have so many little girls in the club,” Pridmore said. “Girls graduating in STEM fields has been declining, and it is so great to see girls getting so excited to learn about technology. My vision is not only to help girls learn to code, but also help the girls learn about community service and leadership while developing confidence in their own abilities.”

With hopes the Coding Club will continue to grow, Pridmore is working on plans for the future. She will be launching a Girls Who Code Club specifically aimed toward middle school girls for the 2019-20 academic year. Pridmore would like to leverage the older girls’ experience in coding to help create curriculum and operate the elementary school Coding Club.

The launch of Scratch 3.0 will also give students new opportunities for coding. The new iteration allows the students to use multiple languages and to interact with their programs through webcams.

Pridmore is hopeful that both the elementary school club, as well as the Girls Who Code Club, will become geared toward creating programs that benefit the community. Some new ideas for the kids to work on are improving reading fluency, teaching languages and teaching seniors how to use the internet.

“I would also like to pursue the possibility of taking a group to a coding competition,” Pridmore said. “Some of the projects the students completed last year are competition-worthy. I would love for them to have that kind of experience at such a young age.”

However, CES students are not the only ones learning from involvement in the Coding Club. Usually teaching college classes, Pridmore said working with young students has been good for her, too.

“I have learned how much kids love to learn,” Pridmore said. “How much kids respond to someone taking a genuine interest in them and what interests them. Working with them makes me even more hopeful for the future generation.”

Posted on August 8, 2019