Thoughts on Coding with Students:Hour of Code

December 8, 2014

Today marks the start of Computer Science Education Week (December 8th – 12th). Computer science education is more than just knowing how computers work, it is creating. In the words of President Obama, “If we want America to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans to master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about everything.”

Computer Science, and coding in particular allow students to learn, practice and demonstrate many of the 21st century skills they will need to be successful after graduation – even if they aren’t going into computer science as a career. Coding teaches critical thinking, problem solving, team work and collaboration. For myself, I was first exposed to programming by moving a turtle around using Logo on an old Apple IIe during 5th grade. The experience sparked a lifelong interest in how things we use every day work and can credit coding with the thing that has taught me the most about problem solving. For that, I’m grateful to my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Hanley.

Technology has advanced since then and so have the quality of resources available to teach coding. One way is to participate in the Hour of Code. Over 54 million students from around the world have already participated, and many more are starting this week.

Sounds great! How can I participate?

It’s easy! Code.org, a non-profit whose goal is to expand participation in computer science, has created a 1 hour lesson that will give students what they need to get started.

Have students go to http://learn.code.org on their iPad or Computer to get started. There, they will be able to access lessons teaching them the basics of programming using the characters from Frozen, Angry Birds and more. We’ve used these lessons with students in grades 3-12. In fact, today President Obama even learned a few lines of code!

To learn more about the history of the hour of code, be sure to check out http://hourofcode.com/us

Credit: Code.org

Credit: Code.org

Cool, but I want MORE!

As a district we have access to many resources that will help you teach and learn coding with your students. Code.org/learn is a great starting poing for all grade levels.

Elementary Coding Resources

In addition to learn.code.org, we’ve made many coding apps available for on student’s iPad’s. Have them go to ‘Self Service’ to download.

Scratch Jr. – Developed by MIT, this app allows primary students to create their first computer programs.

Pixel Press Floors – Floors allows students to design their own video game! Create levels and then see if you can beat your own game.

Hopscotch- Learn to program by dragging and dropping blocks. Basic concepts are taught in an easy to understand way that isn’t intimidating.

Cargo Bot – Learn basic programming concepts such as logic, loops, and more in a fun, game like atmosphere.

Secondary Coding Resources

For those in grades 7-12, there are many resources available online.

Scratch.mit.edu – A programming language developed by MIT. It is quick, easily learned by students, and powerful enough to create fairly complex programs. It’s a great place to go after studentes have mastered the materials offered at Code.org

HTML – The programing language of the Web. Head on over to http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp and look through the tutorials. Each chapter has a ‘Try it Yourself’ area where students can experiment with sample code to better understand what it does. This is a great primer to learn how to create your own website.

Coding is a great vehicle for engaging students in critical thinking activities. The skills they learn through coding are directly applicable to many activities they do in their daily lives. I hope you will join with the many teachers from across the country and participate in the Hour of Code this week.

-Matt

**Update 12/18/14**

Be sure to check out what students at Westside did during the hour of code!