Tuesday, December 18, 2018

BPY students are engrossed in coding.

Ben Porat Yosef (BPY) is taking its curriculum to a higher level with the introduction of a school-wide coding program beginning in February. While coding has been on the minds of educators for many years, its offerings in schools nationwide have not necessarily reflected that. At BPY, the goal is to incorporate coding into most subjects, both secular and Judaic. This program will be presented throughout the school from kindergarten through eighth grade.

BPY is excited to immerse students in what is believed to be the language of the future. Coding, which is a form of computer programming, is being used in every industry and area of the workforce. Most schools expose students to coding with a passing approach. At BPY they believe that is insufficient. “We are starting a program where all students will not just be exposed to coding, but rather it will become part of their week and their educational process,” explained Head of School Rabbi Saul Zucker. “The objective is that by the time they graduate they will be so expert in coding they will be able to be certified.” The program will serve to enhance the courses that students are already engaged in throughout the day. The goal is to be writing code in support of what they are learning in their general studies and Limudei Kodesh classes.

This program was anticipated by a very generous donation made last year by Elana and Ben Silver, enabling BPY to purchase significant computer hardware that is already being used for coding in the preliminary stages. Additionally, Dana and Adam Sasouness provided a substantial gift that will accelerate the plans to roll out the full coding program beginning in February. In order to excel at coding, students essentially must be taught a new language. Coding teachers are currently being hired who can expertly facilitate the training process and educate the students on all levels.

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, believed learning to code could actually help people think. It is considered an empowering skill and has a significant impact when presented at an early age. Not all students are the same nor do they all learn in the same way. The beauty of the coding program is that it speaks to everyone. Analytical students tend to take to coding in a methodical way, and the more creative-minded students often approach it from an artistic angle. In either case, coding opens up a new way of thinking that students will be able to use today and take with them through high school, college and beyond.

“Coding is the next ‘literacy.’ Just like reading, writing and math skills are necessary in order to think critically and creatively, fluency in coding will also allow children to think and express themselves in deeper ways. Given the level of importance that this type of thinking will have in their lives, we believe that our students should achieve mastery and truly incorporate this ability. That’s our goal. In order to accomplish this, coding has to be integrated as a regular part of the students’ week; it isn’t sufficient to merely acquaint them with coding by offering them a passing exposure. We want to start this important skill acquisition in early childhood because we believe that it is essential to lay the foundation for computational thinking at this young age in order to set our students up for success in their future pursuits, not just in higher education, but in life,” said Jessica Kohn, early childhood director and associate principal.

New technology innovations are constantly on the horizon, allowing people to think better and faster. “Coding changes the way you think about problem solving. It opens up a way of thinking that is almost like another dimension,” said Ruth Roth, director of admissions at BPY. Coding helps people convert thoughts into algorithms that the computer can process a lot more quickly and a lot less emotionally, producing more efficient results. Educational masters of today have compared not learning to code to not learning to read or write in the new age. As we move into the next phase of education, coding is a fundamental component that will be an integral part of the academic curriculum. By immersing our students in this program, we believe we are equipping them with the tools to succeed in life, concluded Rabbi Zucker.

By Andrea Nissel