Coding In Our Community

As we work to learn more about the many possibilities that come with learning how to code, our club decided to feature individuals or businesses that we encounter in our own community who have been able to create, improve, streamline or influence through coding.  Here is our first feature of Coding In Our Community.

Featured Coder: Mr. Brian Wis, Music Teacher, St. Charles North High School

Mr. Brian Wis, Music Teacher at St. Charles High School (SCN) in St. Charles, IL has created an app called Note Names that all music students at SCN use.  Note Names is a game that is played in class as well as being used for assessment purposes as part of students’ final exams. The primary purpose and reason for the app design is to help students throughout the music department become more musically literate.

Wis recalls having thought of the idea for the Note Names app for the first time in the 1990s when he was teaching band.  He thought that the kids were having to learn so much at once that if there was a way they could “internalize the names of notes they would be ahead of the game.”

Once Wis decided to make his idea a reality, he became a self taught coder. Originally, he used a language called HyperTalk (a coding language developed by Apple). HyperTalk has now evolved in the form of LiveCode, which is compatible with Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android.

Since its appearance in the app store, Note Names has been downloaded 11,000 times!  Wis says that he is “happy that music teachers are using it.”  He also believes that Note Names has achieved what he thought it would, but as with any functioning app, he has also made changes and updates along the way based on user input.  “Student feedback has definitely helped refine the game,” says Wis.

Along with Note Names, Wis has created other apps for music students such as Rhythm Reactor, Rhythm Tapper, and Interval Mania.  Wis explains how every app is different and “has its own challenges.”  But, he adds, “Once you learn to code one, you can use things that you used in that app to create a new one.”  For example, one feature that all of Wis’s apps have in common is connectivity to Google Docs to record students’ scores and gather their preferences.  Once the code was written for one app, it could easily be plugged into any new app.

According to Wis, “The ability to code gives me the tools I need to help accelerate student learning.  It allows students to do 10 times as much work in the same amount of time that it would take to write out the note names.”

Thank you to Mr. Wis for showing how code can be used to not only help students learn  information more quickly, but for sharing the impact code has had for him as a teacher and musician.

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