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BOCES Aims To Make Computer Coding More Accessible

Ossining 6th-graders demonstrate coding to workshop attendees at the recent Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES conference in Yorktown. Photo Credit: Provided
Scarsdale High School junior Maria Meginean, left, makes a point in a panel discussion moderated by Gary Stern at the Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES conference in Yorktown. Photo Credit: Provided
Seventh-graders from Armonk's Byram Hills School District demonstrate coding at the recent Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES conference in Yorktown. Photo Credit: Provided

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Computer coding isn’t just for science whiz kids anymore, said Dr. Leigh An DeLyser, the keynote speaker at a recent conference hosted by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown.

It can -- and should -- be taught to all students at every grade level, she said.

Coding helps develop critical thinking skills, DeLyser said, which can be applied to all areas of learning.

The BOCES conference was designed to showcase the value of computer coding and computer science in K-12 classrooms and to help educators incorporate it into their schools.

DeLyser, director of education and research for the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education, said that the students of today, while “digital natives and great users of technology,” are not always great at seeing how technology can be used to help solve problems they are presented with “in their classroom, in their school building, in their world.”

The conference attracted 130 educators of various disciplines throughout Westchester and Putnam counties.

In her keynote, DeLyser said that girls and ethnic minorities were very underrepresented among computer science students.

She also pointed to shortage of qualified computer science technicians in the workforce.

“There are two jobs for every college graduate in computer science, and there will soon be three,” she said. “A student is 10 times more likely to choose computer science as a college major if they’ve had access to it in high school.”

“There’s a real social imperative here.” She said. “We can open up doors for all of our students based on just giving them access, a start and choices.”

Among the highlights were two workshops led by students.

Liz Krieger, library media specialist in the Carmel School District, attended a workshop led by Ossining sixth-graders.

“The kids were such a highlight,” Krieger said. “They were so informative and happy about sharing what they knew. It was the most fun and relaxing intro to any computer skill that I have ever learned!”

A panel discussion that included educators, coding professionals, and one high school student concluded the day’s activities.

Scarsdale High School junior, Maria Meginean, who runs a coding club for girls, said she believes students to be at a “disadvantage if they don’t know how to code.”

Meginean urged teachers to engage girls in computer science and to make it attractive to all students.

“Teachers don’t need to teach students everything,” Meginean said. “They need to teach students how to learn. Then they can jump on those trends.”

Software engineer and Hendrick Hudson High School graduate Dan Eisenberg, who spent four years with Google and now works with a healthcare startup, reiterated DeLyser’s belief that coding and computer science has far-reaching implications.

“It’s by far the most important thing to expose kids to,” he said.

Given access, most students will jump on the opportunity, Eisenberg said.

“The reality is, it’s fun! If you like using Legos, you’ll probably like programming,” he said.

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