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Ursuline Academy builds student tech skills with 'Hour of Code'


Ursuline students and faculty try their hand at circuitry during a week devoted to the Hour of Code. Courtesy photo

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DEDHAM -- How can an hour last all week long? Easy -- that's what happens when you take 430 students, 66 faculty and administrators, a desire to learn, and get everybody involved in a common effort. During the week of Dec. 5, Ursuline Academy in Dedham celebrated the Hour of Code, a global effort to entice students to try their hand at writing code and exploring science concepts, with a week-long array of activities and demonstrations.

The movement is sponsored by Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. It is based on the premise that coding is a skill that is as essential as reading or writing, and is a building block for success in a wide variety of careers.

Ursuline's week started with senior Liz Ronan of Walpole talking to the student body about her experience at Girls Who Code, a summer intensive program designed to teach young women computer science and inspire them to enter STEM fields.

With that as the springboard, students were able to choose from different software-related activities throughout the week. The choices included such activities as using simple circuitry kits to turn fruit into a digital keyboard, writing the code for basic game apps using Hopscotch, having upper-class students teach younger ones about programming robots.

Sophomore Chloe Byrne of Dedham found it to be an eye-opener, saying "It was fascinating to hear the statistics regarding the large number of tech jobs that are likely to be available by 2020. Women are without a doubt capable of succeeding in a career involving technology, and there are so many opportunities to accommodate them, but they just need to be marketed to young women and men alike. Interest simply cannot develop without inspiration or exposure."

Teachers and administrators also got into the week-long celebration, which was a collaboration between the school's academic leadership and its technology department.

Principal Michelle Smith said, "The Hour of Code reinforced for our students and faculty the importance of a collaborative approach to thinking, teaching, and learning. Coding is a practical skill that our young women should understand as they navigate their educational experience at Ursuline Academy and beyond."

Digital integration specialist Greg Mertz added, "At Ursuline Academy, we recognize that technology is impacting every industry on the planet and want to make sure that our students have the exposure and knowledge necessary to foster the creativity and problem solving skills required for their future careers."

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