Not your average study hall; Students learn how to code

Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk seventh and eighth-grade students could be using their sixth-period study hall to complete homework or take a mental break. Instead, this group of about 12 students are in Jared Bevington’s technology classroom with their eyes glued to iPads.

While it may look like they are using the tablets to play video games, they are actually learning how to code to create their own games.

Software on the iPads allows students the freedom to create their own personal game from the ground up. Learning as they go, students are coding, testing their code and then re-coding to improve on what they have built.

Each student develops his or her own unique game. In one, for example, characters try to make it through a maze without getting eaten by a lion. Another requires a character to cross the street while avoiding speeding cars. A third features a singing cupcake whose songs are based on the musical notes entered by the programmer.

Students are also learning another form of coding using a robotic ball, called a Sphero, that moves according to the commands programmed in an iPad. Distance, speed and direction are all controlled by the programmer. A student can make the ball turn a corner, go down stairs, or even turn around and come back to them, all based on the coding they enter.

The students are honing their coding skills as a test-run for a credit-bearing class that school officials are considering for next year.

“My hope is to eventually get this type of class integrated k-12,” Bevington said. “In today’s society the use of computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices has taken over and the job market for computer science degrees is growing.”

But for now, students are doing the work for the sheer fun of it, and to help build future learning opportunities for themselves and others.

Rebecca Sagendorph is one student in the study hall who was excited to be part of the trial run.

“Technology makes the world better, and it allows the next generation to have an easier life, so they can do more in life,” she said. “I like to think about how it is progressing the world.”