Leading students through the everchanging
wilderness of computer science can seem
daunting. Pinedale High School and Middle School
technology instructor Cheryl Travis trains her students
to focus on the basics: creative and critical thinking,
troubleshooting skills and “computational thinking ...
learning about the computer and how to communicate with
Coding is a primary means of communication in the
world of computers. Each line of code “is its own separate
command” in the construction of a specific program, Travis
explained. Once each line of code is written out, they are
combined into a chain of commands to form a completed
Coding can be complex. The software to operate a U.S.
military drone, for example, uses about 3.5 million lines
of code. All the Google apps and services use a combined
total of 2 billion lines of code.
High school and middle school students usually do
not have time in class to develop an entire new suite of
software. A few years back, the British Broadcasting
Corporation, or BBC, developed a system to teach students
the basics of coding called the “micro:bit.”
Micro:bits are “little mini-computers that can handle
lots of codes,” Travis said. They have five ports and are
about half the size of a credit card.
When micro:bits are “nested together,” they have more
capacity to code and this “allows students to go further in
their experiments,” Travis added.
A new set of micro:bits to enhance the collection already
on hand was top on Travis’ wish list. This is where her
grant-writing skills came in handy.
The Association of American Educators Foundation,
or AAEF, approved a $500 grant for Travis to purchase
a set of 28 micro:bits from the nonprofit Micro:bit
By Robert Galbreath
“Micro:bits are a great way to introduce coding to
students and provide them with a way to see how it actually
works,” Travis said. “Micro:bits apply to many situations
to get experimental data.”
Students at the middle school used micro:bits last year
to write code to create “micro-pets” with LED readouts,
Travis added. At the high school, students coded sound
and light for Christmas ornaments with their micro:bits.
The AAEF offers grants to members across the nation
for projects in any academic field. As a result, the grants
are very competitive and $500 is the top amount awarded,
Travis said. With six successful grants under her belt, Travis
put her skills to use to augment items in the technology
department that fall outside the school district’s budget.
“The district does really well at funding technology,
and the grants help us with any additional funding,” Travis
said. “I’m tickled that we got the funding.”
The AAEF is a nonprofit charitable organization
that “provides teachers and leaders with opportunities,
information and funds to reform and improve the education
of America’s youth,” a press release said.