Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hour of Code

     About a month ago, I started catching the buzz about the Hour of Code celebration.  I remember spending time in middle school and high school learning to program in BASIC and PASCAL.  I really enjoyed the linear organization of everything, and the "sequentialness" of the process.  As my own children have gone through the school system I have realized that while we offer classes on graphic design, engineering and web design, we don't seem to offer programming any more.  Over the summer I mentioned it in a meeting our STEM teachers were having with the local technical college.  I pointed out that as a teacher it would be nice to introduce these things, but obviously my skill set is VASTLY out of date.  When I heard about companies finding ways to introduce students to coding I got very excited about it.

    As Monday rolled around, I emailed my students several links, one of which was a grouping of various coding opportunities to introduce students to the idea.  Most of my kids have experience with the LEGO robotics platform of drag and drop, so this made a lot of sense to them.  Many of them have surprised me by looking at the code underneath and trying to make sense of the "real" way of programming.  If you follow the link you will notice several circles under each example.  Be sure to scroll through those for more possibilities.

Also during the day (starting at noon for us on the east coast), we tuned in to two of the 4 chats from various people in the computer science world.  We first watched the chat from Susan Wolcicki, of Google.  We then watched Gabe Newell from Valve. Now, I have to admit.... I didn't know Valve.  I'm not a huge gamer, so we searched for the company to see what it was and as soon as my students saw the LEGO video games they were super excited. One of the comments he made was above my students' heads, but I found it interesting, as well as something I've been pondering.  The idea being that our economy will change (as will the types of jobs we need) because of the internet.  In our town we are watching some big chains close doors because their website can handle the volume, or a competitor has a cheaper website. We were out of school by the time the last two were scheduled, and the Bill Gates chat isn't linked, so I'm guessing he couldn't do his, but Jack Dorsey of Twitter rounded out the schedule.  We watched him later in the week but found him interesting too. My students are generally not yet on Twitter so they watched in terms of knowing the company.

  I still firmly believe that I need to go take a current class for programming, but I noticed that on the link there is another tab for Beyond Hour of Code.  I've sent home permission slips (because my students are under 13) for them to sign up for an account.  This tab says they have an additional 20 hours of code for students, so I think I'll work through it over break, and then bring it back to my students in January.  I really want them to understand this process so they don't shy away from opportunities in the future.  I would love to know how other elementary schools use/teach programming to students - so if you do something fabulous, let me know in the comments, or find me in Google Hangouts.

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