Lincoln Students Learn Computer Science in New ‘App Creators’ Class

     Published on 1/28/19   Tagged under:    District News    Lincoln Middle School   

This is a photo of a student sitting at a computer while programming on a tablet device sitting on the table in front of him.Last winter, Lincoln Middle School received a Project Lead the Way grant, made possible by Verizon. The grant provided $20,000 for the creation of a new course called App Creators – including equipment, training and course development.
Now in its first year at Lincoln, the semester-long class meets daily and is intended to help students develop an interest in computer science by showing them practical applications to other disciplines and to society.
“Our goal is ultimately to help develop computer scientists – to teach students to think critically,” Technology Education teacher Mike Foley explained. “We want them to learn to troubleshoot, to problem solve, and to learn while doing.”
Students work together to ‘pair program’: one student reads the directions while the other does the programming; then they switch roles. The groups work together in ‘pods’ of four students, so if one group gets stuck, they ask another for help. The rule in class is to ask three other people before you ask the teacher!
“The students are on their phones and devices all the time,” Mr. Foley said. “This course teaches them what’s happening in the background and helps them see the computer as a tool. It really brings personalized learning to life and forces the kids to be active learners.”
Students work their way through curriculum that teaches them to de-bug issues in apps, gradually building their content knowledge so by the end of the course they can design and build their own app from the ground up.
“It’s cool that this is a subject in school,” seventh grader Sam Sampson said. “We learn things like math and science, but it’s relaxed compared to our other classes. The hardest part is actually coding a program, because you have to program the X and Y coordinates. It’s a lot of work and you have to be exact in order for it to work.”
Sam noted that he’s hoping to develop an app similar to Trivia Crack, but that would help people study. He’s hoping that one day it could become available in the App store.
“When we de-bug an app, you have to try different things and change variables to try to figure out what’s wrong,” Isabella Stewart said. “It’s fun because you get to try to make something that works. It’s a challenge and it requires you to read directions and make things yourself. But it’s satisfying to see an app work because you fixed it. I’d like to learn to get better at this in case I decide to make this my career choice one day!”
Next year, as part of the existing grant, Lincoln looks forward to adding a Computer Science and Makers class, which will allow students to develop watches, pedometers and other wearables.