Students teach coding at area elementary schools

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Dr. Diana Nixon (left) receives the 2018 Excellence in Service Learning award from Chancellor Jennie Vaughan.

BLOOMINGTON – For the second year in a row, students from Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus taught coding to area elementary school fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. Diana Nixon, Ph.D., associate professor of information technology, organized the project. In recognition of her coding outreach, on Friday, April 27, Ivy Tech Bloomington awarded Dr. Nixon with the Excellence in Service Learning award during Ivy Tech’s O’Bannon Institute for Community Service.

“One of the goals for this ongoing project is to introduce young students, and particularly girls, to coding,” said Dr. Nixon. “Studies show that girls steer away from STEM fields in middle school and we’re trying to get them inspired before then. The project also benefited Ivy Tech students because teaching requires a level of mastery beyond ordinary classroom studies.”

Last year, students in the IT club taught coding at Clear Creek Elementary School. This year, students enrolled in software development classes taught coding at Clear Creek Elementary School and Edgewood Intermediate School as the service-learning portion of their curriculum. Nixon plans to continue to expand this service learning project to other area schools and to involve more Ivy Tech students.

Ivy Tech student Monica Dignam taught coding at Edgewood Intermediate School once per week.

“We’ve been doing a unit on algorithms, so we’re using a board game to teach the children about the idea of breaking things down one tiny step at a time,” said Dignam. “They’re really excited about it, and the game communicates the concept well.”

Ivy Tech student Matthew Lewallen also taught coding at Edgewood. Lewallen is working toward an associate degree in cyber security/information assurance, a general studies transfer certificate, and is employed as a lab technician in Ivy Tech’s School of Information Technology.

“The thing I enjoyed the most about this project was seeing the children’s faces light up when understanding came to them,” said Lewallen. “It really gave me a sense of accomplishment.”

“Getting people involved in the STEM movement at an early age has a number of benefits,” continued Lewallen. “For one, it may help these kids discover new career paths. Coding can serve as a positive creative outlet and may be pursued solo or as a group. IT jobs are in high demand. Our country needs more people to fill the ranks, and what better way than to get students interested in fifth grade?”

Lewallen also remarked that Edgewood Intermediate staff were very engaged and supportive of the project.

Dr. Nixon serves on the Indiana committee for Expanding Computing Education Pathways, which works to increase the number and diversity of students in the pipeline to computing and informatics degree programs.

“Information technology is one of the fastest growing occupational fields, yet the number of students being trained in computing won’t meet the projected demand,” said Dr. Nixon. “The coding project dovetails with nationwide efforts to expand computing education pathways, with a long-term goal of increasing the number and diversity of students in the pipeline to computing and computing-intensive degrees.”

Dr. Nixon is also organizing two, one-week coding workshops that will be held June 18-22 and June 25 – 29 for girls ages 11 to 14.

“We’re specifically recruiting and setting aside as many spots as we can for girls of color,” said Nixon. “They don’t have to be interested in IT before they come to us. It’s our job in the coding workshop to inspire them by showing them all the possibilities and things they can do with coding.”

For information about the summer coding workshop, contact Dr. Diana Nixon at dnixon4@ivytech.edu or (812) 330-6134.

Ivy Tech Bloomington’s campus offers eight associate degrees in the information technology field, to meet workforce demand. Degree offerings include computer science, cyber security/information assurance, database management and administration, network infrastructure, informatics, information technology support, network infrastructure, server administration, and software development. More information can be found online at ivytech.edu/computers.

 

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