Students are taking on coding and other technologies

Sarah Bunich
St. James Plaindealer

Students at the middle and high school have innovation classes they can take this year with help of a grant from a former St. James graduate. Dean Hagger, who is the CEO of Jamf a company that does a lot with technology. 

"Dean told me his favorite thing was not necessarily school, but a math teacher got him excited about computers and programming," said Superintendent Steve Heil. " This was back when your first macintoshes, so you actually had to do some coding programming to get into what you were doing. It really intrigued him and lead him down his career pathway."

Hagger's work with Jamf has been focused on how to get technology to areas of high need. Their first innovation hubs were done in countries like Kenya, Hatia, and Afghanistan. Jamf is still expanding in other countries, but now they have also started doing the innovation hubs in the United States.

St. James innovation hub started with a phone call Hager had with former principal Karla Beck. Heil said during the call Hager explained to Beck what innovation hubs were and Beck told him that he just explained St. James and public schools.

In Minnesota, three innovation hubs are in the process of being built or are already holding classes in them. Currently, Minneapolis and St. Paul are in the process of being built. Making St. James the first rural United States innovation hub for Jamf.  To make this possible the school worked all of last spring getting the innovation hub set up and ready for this school year. 

Amanda Steinle, the innovation hub teacher, this semester is teaching sixth, seventh and eighth-grade classes. Ninth through twelfth graders are welcome to use the innovation room as a resource room to do pictures, coding, or any technological things.

Students have just started with exploring the camera, getting them familiar with the iPad, the programs they will be using, and they each get a crayon.

"They explore with the filters, selfies, the different effects they can use, recording, and then we will get into coding," said Steinle. " The seventh graders have been doing coding and the sixth graders I only see them every four days so we are working on getting them ready for that so they will probably get into that more next week."

When the students are learning to code they are working with a program that has them completing tasks, almost like a game that makes them move a character around obstacles. If they get the code right their character moves and completes the task they were supposed to do, or if they get it wrong their character won't be able to do the task.

One of the items the students get to work on coding with is the Sphero Bolts. They can make the bolt run mazes that they have created. Steinle showed how the bolt worked during the interview and talked about how the students will have challenges they can do with it like the first one they had was can they drive and then the maze will be another one.

St. James has a three-year contract with Jamf and each year they will get money to do what the kids want to do within the innovation hub, like doing more coding, photography, or Garageband. Heil said that is the point of the innovation hub is to take it and see what they can do with it