Cracking the code in a P.E.I. high school

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 12, 2015

Morell Regional High School students learn critical thinking, patience, perseverance, in computer coding classes

MORELL – What began as an interest in learning computer coding has turned into a passion for Grade 12 student Kieran Atcheynum-Toews.

The 17-year-old Morell Regional High School student has already finished both coding classes available in the school system.

“After completing the courses I do believe that my problem solving skills did improve,” said Kieran. “I was willing to actually attempt to try and solve a problem instead of trying to instantly find someone else to find me the answer.”

Like the other students in Sandy Gallant’s computer coding classes, Kieran has also found how important patience, perseverance and problem solving are in this particular field of study that focuses on creating everything in the digital world, including computer software, websites and apps.

The neatest thing Kieran said he has learned is making a program using Notepad.

“It was something I didn’t know was possible and just by writing a few words and adding a few other things into a code, you can make a website.”

Kieran said he is not sure he will pursue a career path in coding as he has other passions, including the military and psychology.

“Coding is something I want to have in there, although it is not top of my list,” he said. “But I do believe that if I got a job in this field that I would enjoy that.”

Computer coding classes have been taught at Morell Regional High School since 2007. There are approximately 20 students taking either the 521 or 621 course. All of the students in both classes are male.

“I don’t have an explanation for that,” said Gallant. “Programming to me is for everybody.”

Gallant feels this is an important skillset for students to have because many post-secondary courses entail some basic understanding of coding, including robotics, graphic design and video game animation.

Gallant touches on as many of these areas as possible so students can see if they have an interest in the subject.

Students are introduced to hypertext markup language, HTML, which is basic coding language and cascading style sheets, a layer above HTML, which helps create visually engaging webpages.

In the advanced class, students are introduced to Microsoft Digital Image Studio, which is a graphic user interface.

They also learn database, develop code for video games and build a program visually in a three-dimensional program called Alice.

Gallant said the students who tend to do well often have a strong math background. But he said students who don’t have strong math skills can still do well if they practise at it.

“Basically a computer program is a problem and your ability to get the program to work is your ability to do problem solving. They are kind of hand in hand,” said Gallant. “If you are a good problem solver, you can be a good coder.”

Kieran feels more students should give computer coding classes a try to see if they have an interest in this field.

“I think it’s something that challenges students to think more critically. It’s a course that allows them to explore more of what they see inside themselves.”

Kieran feels more students should give computer coding classes a try to see if they have an interest in this field.

“I think it’s something that challenges students to think more critically. It’s a course that allows them to explore more of what they see inside themselves.”

maureen.coulter@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/MaureenElizaC

Kieran Atcheynum-Toews, left, and his teacher Sandy Gallant look over some computer coding during a class at Morell Regional High School.

©Maureen Coulter/The Guardian