On Monday, my former colleague, Martene Herbert reminded me it was the annual Hour of Code this week. Each year, in early December (during Computer Science Education Week in the US), millions of students from around the world participate in Hour of Code activities. Being that I don’t have a classroom of students, I had totally forgotten about this event!
These activities introduce (or extend) students’ experiences with computer coding. The resources (on the official website and all over the internet) ensure students of any age can participate. Martene’s class is in Grade 1 at Valleyview Public School in Kenora, Ontario and they had a great experience with their Hour of Code. I’ve worked with Grade 6, 7 and 8s and have found the same – students enjoy learning to code! In addition to that, they end up collaborating with their peers, problem solving and developing a sense of perseverance. Here’s some photos of Martene’s class coding (and collaborating, problem solving & persevering!).
At Dryden High School, teacher Spuro Sourtzis uses the program Scratch (developed by MIT) for his Grade 10 students’ coding work. In Sourtzis’ class, students move from this program to other coding languages (Python, HTML, C) which prepares them for Grade 11 and 12 computer classes. Students have experiences in these classes that prepare them for careers in computer sciences BUT ALSO for any career. Coding is well-recognized as a valuable learning experience. From the site The Guardian.com and reiterated on many other sites as well, this thinking:
Will every job in the future involve programming? No. But it is still crucial that every child learns to code.
This is not primarily about equipping the next generation to work as software engineers, it is about promoting computational thinking. Computational thinking is how software engineers solve problems. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches you a new way to think about the world.
Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It allows you to tackle complex problems in efficient ways that operate at huge scale. It involves creating models of the real world with a suitable level of abstraction, and focus on the most pertinent aspects. It helps you go from specific solutions to general ones.
I just finished perusing the work of one of Dryden High’s students – take a look here. It’s pretty impressive to think of what is actually behind what you see .
For teachers, the Hour of Code is set-up so that there is very little prep work. In fact, once you navigate to the official website, you can filter by grade level, educator/student experience, classroom devices, topic, activity type (self-directed or tutorial), length of time and language. There’s loads of options – really, something for every student and educator. Also, if you want to have your class count in the total tally of world-wide participants, you can enroll at this link too.
But, BUT – what if you don’t know how to CODE? Well, like any other tech-based program/programming, your students can teach you! They catch on so quick, why not let them be the teachers and you be the student? A few years ago, I abandoned the idea of learning programs before I used them in my classroom and I haven’t looked back! My suggestion is “let them play, have them share their learning with each other (and you) and THEN later use the program/site in instruction and assessment“. This hasn’t failed me yet!
Here’s some code.org promotional videos for the 2016 Hour of Code. Check them out, I’m pretty sure you’ll be inspired to get an hour of coding in this week. And if you do, please let me know (in the comments below or via email) as I’d love to share your work with others.
This one is a bit longer as it includes some instructions.
I’m off to do some coding, I hope you are as well!