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Superintendent William Hite with young coders at Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls. (Photo: Darryl C. Murphy)

Darryl C. Murphy / The Notebook

District celebrates Computer Science Education Week

Superintendent Hite went to Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls to showcase coding skills among even the youngest students.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Superintendent William Hite visited students at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls on Wednesday to celebrate the District’s seventh annual Computer Science Education Week.

“We recognize the need for all students to have access to meaningful digital learning experiences, no matter where they live or attend school,” he said.

Hite, Mifflin principal Leslie Mason, and Judd Pittman, special consultant to the Pennsylvania secretary of education for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), addressed the students, then watched as they played computer games and toyed with gadgets designed to teach the basics of code.

Board of Education Chair Joyce Wilkerson; Sara Frey of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, which provides professional development training for teachers; and Melanie Harris, the District’s chief information officer, were also in attendance.

Students were split into three groups, with three different activities — one each for Ozobots and Spheros, which are instructional toys for coding, and one for LightBot, which is a coding computer game — as the District officials and their guests looked on.

It was the second coding-related event this week that Hite has visited. On Monday, he joined CS4Philly, an organization dedicated to providing equitable access to computer science education, at the Kimmel Center for the Student CS Experience, a computer science program for high school students from across the city.

The week provides an opportunity for the District to highlight its efforts to promote digital literacy education. So far the District has expanded its digital literacy curriculum into 133 K-8 schools, where students learn coding, internet safety, and computational thinking.

Also, 23 high schools offer computer science courses, including Introduction to Technology and Computer Applications, Introduction to Computer Science, and AP Computer Science Principles.

Professional development opportunities are also available for teachers. The District says all K-8 teachers have received training in teaching coding through the use of Spheros and Ozobots.

Pittman also took time to highlight the state’s efforts to promote computer science education and workforce development.

Gov. Wolf’s PASmart grant program provides $30 million in funding to help workers, present and future, compete in a labor force where digital literacy is a crucial asset.

Pittman said the state is also partnering with organizations such as Delaware County Intermediate Unit to provide free computer science professional development for Pennsylvania educators.

The students appeared to be enjoying themselves, with their eyes glued to their computer screens on a LightBot game, drawing color-coded commands for Ozobots, or watching in awe at rolling Spheros controlled by a tablet.

Emily Adeshigbin, the digital literacy teacher at Mifflin, says the students “pick it up faster than I can even present it to them.”