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Write directions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

After a few trials to create the delicious snack, you may find it frustrating as your instructor sandwiches the peanut butter– jar and all– between two pieces of bread, letting you know your instructions were not specific enough. 

You may recall similar lessons from your time in middle and high school classes. Twenty years ago, the exercise taught the importance of recording the steps in an experiment for the sake of the scientific method. Today, in Ms. Hauver’s classroom, the lesson teaches an important lesson about computer programming. 

“This may seem a little silly,” a young student programmer on loan from BYU explains, “but this really is how computers work. If you aren’t exactly specific, down to the very last detail, your computer will do something completely different from what you intended. Or, it won’t work at all.”

The children in the classroom watch with anticipation. The video about the PB&J is engaging, but what was more valuable was how they’d apply that knowledge in an engaging game at the end of class. Before launching any part of the lesson, she showed them a little computer with red LEDs displaying either rock, paper, or scissors once shaken. The goal of creating these themselves keeps the students focused. 

Once students opened their Chromebooks and dug into the lesson, they received three “difficulty levels.” For an easier experience, codes are grouped into large puzzle-like blocks. The students select a puzzle piece denoting an action, dragging the subject into the corresponding space. The medium difficulty is similar, but instead of literal puzzle pieces the objects are lines of code. And for hard mode, they are simply given a console to write the code themselves. 

Programs like this help kids realize just how possible things like computer programming can be. For many people, programming feels like magic: you ask the wizards behind the computer for something you want to see, they type a spell into the computer and presto! But having a guest teacher come into the classroom and walk the kids through the coding process means these children will have one less barrier when preparing for their futures and pursuing their dreams. 

By the end of the lesson, you’ll just need to buy another jar of peanut butter. 

Alexander Glaves
  • Social Media/Marketing Specialist
  • Alexander Glaves