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High-Tech Teaching at Binghamton School District

Students of all ages are learning computer programming skills.
Students of all ages are learning computer programming skills.

Students in Suzy Kitchen's class at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School are learning computer programming skills at their own level.

"They think it's fun. They're not afraid to fail," said Kitchen. "It's kind of self-teaching, because they go back and self correct. They build a lot of confidence."

Kitchen is a Challenge Enrichment Specialist. Students are taught a basic programming language and then they program that into a robot that moves around on a mat on the floor.

"We had to write down the program what we wanted to do and we had to tell where it started, how it was facing and how it was going to finish," said fourth grader Nicholas Gouldin.

"I think it's cool to be programming a robot," said fourth grader Shannon Lesch. "You can make him go in a square or even a rectangle."

"You can make them really long. You can do a total turtle trip, which is where you go around and end up in the same spot you were in before," said fourth grader Makenna Adams. "I think that's really cool because it's just so fun."

While Nicholas, Shannon and Makenna are in fourth grade, they actually were introduced to programming with a simpler robot in kindergarten and first grade. The key is to make sure the kids understand what they're doing for each step. The programming skills that the children learn in the elementary schools builds up over the years and prepares them for what they learn in the middle schools."

"The more multi-faceted the students experiences with different forms of technology are, the wider their base of knowledge and the ability to understand what they see around them," said Jill Brown.

Jill Brown is a Challenge Enrichment Specialist at East Middle School. She introduces and teaches kids web based programming and design skills. Seventh grader Tanner Schmidt created a Pac Man game as one of his first projects. While it's fun to play, there's a lot work that goes in behind the scenes to make sure it works properly.

"When it's touching black it's able to move, but when it's touching anything that isn't black it's not able to move," said Schmidt. "That's why I have to have that dot, because it's like a sensor. Then I have these ghosts set so they go around in random patterns."

Meanwhile seventh grader Nicholas Phillips is creating a Doctor Who video game.

"I've always wanted to make games, so if I want to make a game I can go on scratch and make any kind of game I want," said Phillips.

"I think it's a phenomenal 21st century educational tool for kids to understand the programming that is happening behind everything that they in their life now, whether it be their phone or computer," said Jill Brown.
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