Perspectives on Coding: A Conversation with Ms. Laura Dixon, Technology and Innovation Teacher

What exactly is the “Hour of Code?”

The Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code,” to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities and expanding to all sorts of community efforts.

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week, which is typically the first week of December. The Hour of Code has now become a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Langley students of all ages have participated in the Hour of Code each year since 2014. To learn more, visit


When is the best time to introduce a child to coding?

I believe we need to introduce students to computer science at an early age with minimal screen time. Surprisingly, there are many activities that teach students computational skills without the use of a computer or a mobile device. For example, we introduce the “Robot” game to students in the Primary School. The “Robot” game consists of one student acting as the computer and another student acting as the robot. The computer commands the robot to perform actions (step forward, hop, etc.) and the robot performs the command. This is just one of the many different ways that we introduce coding to students at The Langley School.

Further, based on my research on the gender gap in STEM fields, we need to expose girls early to the variety of job opportunities available to those with STEM-related degrees, such as  computer science, to ensure we are encouraging girls to consider a future in a computer science field both during college and in the workforce.

How does computer science connect to the STEAM program at Langley?

Technology is one component of STEAM education that has the power to accelerate and amplify student learning. And, within technology, one aspect is computer programming or “coding” which is simply telling machines what to do. As we continue to move forward in the digital age, it is becoming increasingly important for students to acquire knowledge in computer science to gain a better understanding of technology and how it’s shaping our world. Learning how to code also helps to develop computational and critical-thinking skills which are applicable in both math and science. Finally, coding allows for students to be creative when designing projects or solving complex problems.

What is Langley’s curricular approach to coding?

Students in all grades learn about computer science by programming robots at developmentally different stages. For example, in the Primary School, Mrs. O’Grady uses Bee-Bots with junior kindergarten students to practice skills such as directionality, counting, sequencing, and problem-solving.  

In the Lower School, Mrs. O’Grady also introduces computer programming to third-grade students with WeDo LEGO Robotics. Students work in teams to build and program a robot to perform different actions such as moving in directions, flashing lights, and making noises. Our fourth-grade students learn about electronics and computer science by designing and programing an interactive monster during an integrated STEAM project. The students first design the monster from felt, conductive thread, and electronic components. Then they program​ a​ Lilypad Arduino board​ to ​create ​their own unique blinking pattern for the​ir​ monster’s LED eyes and compose a short tune for their monster’s speaker to play.

In the Middle School, I teach students to design and implement computer-based solutions to problems. Sixth-grade students learn computer science and continue to develop their basic computer programming skills using Scratch. Our seventh-grade students learn how to use the JavaScript language and the ProcessingJS library to create fun drawings and animations. I also use LEGO EV3 robotics with seventh-graders to teach computer programming. During this unit, students must first build a more advanced robot and then program the robot to solve complex problems such as navigating a course by using motion, light, and sound sensors.  

Beyond these curricular activities​, ​we intentionally integrate computer science into the curriculum at every grade level to promote problem-solving skills, logic, and creativity. We also provide ​a multi-platform program to support student learning on different machines and operating systems in order to teach students how to work on multiple devices.

At The Langley School, we are able to offer innovative teaching and learning opportunities that provide our students with essential technology skills, knowledge, and thought processes that will fuel their future academic and career success.

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