Every student was either dressed up, or wearing a sign stating what they wanted to do for a career. Students were dressed up as doctors, veterinarians, rock stars, police officers, and some software engineers. As students came into the room, I would ask them what they were dressed up as today. The first student I asked said, “brain surgeon”. My reply was, so you are going to be a computer programmer? He was understandably confused, and restated that he was going to be a brain surgeon. But I know a brain surgeon. One of my former programming students did an undergraduate degree in computer science and then went on to medical school to be a brain surgeon. So, yes, brain surgeons can be computer programmers. As a matter of fact, more and more careers require the use of computer programs. This was our primary message. You can do what it is you want to do, but you will probably need computer programming to do it better and more successfully.
After everyone had settled down, we asked students if they knew what a computer programmer was, and many of them had a pretty good idea. We followed this up with the video from code.org. We asked students to write down on post-it notes the different careers that they saw and heard being mentioned that will require you to know computer programming. Once the video was over, we had the students share them, and stick them to the board. It really opened their eyes as they saw programming being used in hospitals, farms, music industry, new media, recreation, etc. They really began to see that computer programming is truly for everyone.
Students developed a list of attributes that made a good computer programmer. Their list included determination, creativity, math skills, (all 4th grade teachers loved where the code.org video stated they needed to know their multiplication tables), and collaboration. When asked what does a computer programmer look like? They said, "like my mom, my grandpa, like me". Success!!
We wrapped up our presentation by showing a video about scratch. Each student was given the web address where they could go and with parent permission, download scratch and become a computer programmer tonight! The students were very excited.
Our three sessions flew by, and we left feeling that we had begun to transform the image of computer programming. We were able to empower these 4th graders to try something new, to create their own games or skits, to think creatively, and to view computer programming as something that they CAN do. I'm looking forward to the influx of computer programming students 5 years from now.
I am glad we had the opportunity to share computer science with these young students.