Contributed by Spike C. Cook and Alicia Mackall
During the week of December 8-14, 2014, schools across the globe will be participating in the Hour of Code as a way to draw awareness to the importance of coding. Hour of Code began as a way to get schools interested in coding, and to heighten the awareness of the pivotal role computer programmers play in technology and the future. This is why the Hour of Code takes place during Computer Science Education Week. One of the best resources for the Hour of Code is the website http://code.org/. The website makes it relevant and easy to use for kids, teachers and parents. Code.org uses celebrities to show the importance of coding, and they provide many resources. Since the Hour of Code is not limited to just an hour, the hope is that you or your school will continue well past the hour, week or month and make coding a part of the curriculum.
Why we do it
At RM Bacon Elementary, we participated in the Hour of Code last year as another way of transitioning students from being consumers of digital material to producers. When we first started, we didn’t know much about coding and had to watch the tutorials. We dedicated a day to particip
ate in the Hour of Coding. During the day, we used the Library time to help students develop their own games, apps, and complete interactive coding lessons and challenges.
Reflections from last year
Last year, we learned a lot of lessons—and not just about coding.
Although typically ideal, you don’t need a device for every student. There are even resources for coding that do not require a computer, and we used those as ice breakers or to help students understand the concepts.
Some students paired up and shared devices to take the Hour of Code challenge, and some grade levels completed the Hour of Code as a group activity on the SMART Board. Niyasia remembers her 4th grade classmates cheering so loud when they successfully completed the hardest levels of the Angry Birds Code.org activity that other teachers came in to see what was going on. “We had to work together and make a game plan.” Niyasia explained, “It was really cool when we were successful—especially after it took 5 or 6 tries. We were very proud.”
The Hour of Code traveled beyond the classroom at RM Bacon. Students who participated in the school’s 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program led their parents and siblings in an Hour of Code. They also web conferenced with a video game designer and learned about careers in coding, computer science as a college major, and more. RM Bacon alum Bryson remembered last year’s Hour of Code fondly: “I did (the tutorials on) Code.org more than just the one week. I am trying to invent the next Flappy Birds! I’ll donate some iPads to Bacon when I’m successful. I won’t forget where I first learned coding.”
The Hour of Code was often challenging. Many activities took several attempts. We needed to embrace and learn from our failures and figure out alternatives in order to move forward. Some students had to literally get on their feet to figure out how to direct the characters when using the Code.org tutorials. Watching 30 students walk in squares around a classroom may have looked a bit bizarre, but they were actually bringing Blockly to life.
In addition to technology literacy, the Hour of Code helped students focus on communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. It was also an excellent introduction to coding and computer science.
Plans for this year
We are encouraging all grade levels to try the Hour of Code. We will be supporting teachers who feel they might need an extra person in the room while the students are engaged in coding. In addition, we will be placing a greater emphasis on the purpose of coding—transitioning from consuming to producing. One of the expected outcomes is to have teachers and students integrate coding in their Genius Hour, Makerspace, or other constructive opportunity times. We are very excited about the new Frozen themed coding opportunity on the Code.org website!
Want to join?
If you want to join over 50 million students around the world who have already completed the Hour of Code, visit www.code.org. Once at the site, you can take a tutorial, watch videos of the process, and more. We hope you give the Hour of Code a try!
Twitter Hashtag to join with the community of coders – #hourofcode
Kevin Jarrett’s Blog Post – Hour of Code? More like a WEEK (or a MONTH) Our plans for this year …
Cybraryman’s Hour of Code Page – http://cybraryman.com/programming.html
Coding Mavens on Twitter – @jasontbedell; @rushkoff; @jbarrettsrq
Spike C. Cook Alicia Mackall
Spike C. Cook is an elementary principal in Millville, NJ and is the author of Connected Leadership: It’s a Click Away. You can connect with Spike on Twitter @drspikecook
Alicia Mackall is a technology specialist in Millville, NJ. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @AliciaMackall