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Posted on Dec 11, 2018

Local schools host Hour of Code

And now, at last, Eva Zarate understands.
Not just coding, although that was the activity that drew this longtime Quincy resident to her daughter’s school, Quincy Innovation Academy. No, what Zarate (pronounced ZAR-uh-tay) understands now is a lot simpler than coding.
“Now I understand why (teenagers) spend so much time in front of the computer,” Zarate said in Spanish, and not just about her daughter Samantha, who brought both her mom and her dad, Ernesto, to Hour of Code, an event that sought to introduce families to coding through the use of web-based games and activities. “You just want to learn more and find more.”

Samantha Zarate teaches the basics of coding to her mother, Eva, during the Hour of Code at Quincy Innovation Academy on Dec. 3.
Photo by Sebastian Moraga/Post-Register

Some of these activities proved to be entertaining and addicting for newbies like Eva Zarate, which led her to her discovery about her daughter and her screen time.
The Hour of Code, which, ironically, was scheduled for two hours, brought students and their families to QIA on Dec. 3, as part of a weeklong slate of coding activities happening around the district.
Students at Monument Elementary and George Elementary had their own Hour of Code scheduled for Nov. 5.
At QIA, teachers such as Michael Werner and Microsoft data specialist Sonny Patterson coached and watched as students, their parents and siblings, and a few walk-ins, learned the basics of coding using things like a Hot Wheels computer racing game and a Minecraft program.
“I think this initial phase of the Hour of Code is to build excitement and take the fear out of it,” Werner said. People participating in the Hour of Code included Kathie Brown, the principal at QIA.
“I don’t know which one she was playing, but it moved where it was supposed to go,” Werner said with a smile.
Barbara Guzman, a student and family engagement specialist from the North Central Educational Services District, served as a liaison for non-English speaking people present at the event.
“My families often don’t have these exposures, these opportunities,” Guzman said, adding that many families face multiple barriers when faced with a computer screen: the language, the access to technology and their own level of literacy.
Learning how to code was just part of the learning experience, Werner said. Just as big a lesson involved taking a complicated task, and breaking it down into simpler steps until somebody reaches a solution.
“It’s working together, it’s taking risks, it’s overcoming fear and celebrating successes,” Werner said.
Guzman agreed, saying that it is empowering for students to teach something to Mom and Dad, and empowering to parents to face their fears of not understanding technology.
“One parent told me that she didn’t even know how to use a computer,” Guzman said, “and now I see her writing code.”
That would be Mrs. Zarate, who said the language is only a barrier if you let it be.
“It’s been a phenomenal experience,” she said in Spanish. “It’s my first time using a computer, and, since I get excited, I start understanding today’s youth.”
It is a joy and a help, she added, to be a student of her own daughter.
“It’s great, because she’s very patient,” she said with a laugh. “And since she’s patient with me, I can keep going and asking questions.”

By Sebastian Moraga,