The Hour of Code is an initiative the has been promoted around the world to get more people to experience, understand, and play with code. Hour of Code events will be taking place around the world the week of Dec 5-11, 2016. To participate, all one has to do is go to hourofcode.com and register. You do not need to be an expert at code, but you do have to be willing to let students explore and play with code for at least an hour. There are many benefits associated with examining and constructing code. Many job opportunities, many which don’t even exist yet, will require coders and research shows that there will a demand for workers with these skills in the future. Just like the importance of understanding another spoken language the understanding of code will help students understand the world they live in and provide important 21st Century skills. Most importantly it will help students become producers rather than consumers and show them they have the ability to make their own programs instead of waiting for someone to do it for them.
There are many ways and resources in which one can use to ‘get their hour in’ and more. Code.org is a great place to start. There activities and coding opportunities for students of all ages. Using platforms such as Minecraft, Frozen, and even the new Disney movie Moana, students can access opportunities to program code and make many of the characters in these popular games and shows do what the students code them to do. Many of these opportunities are in the form of block coding, so it is much like putting a sentence together in order to make objects move and do other actions. There are many tutorials and many opportunities to learn and have fun.
Two block coding programs that are also great starting points for code are Scratch and Hopscotch. Both are free and allow students to formulate ideas for programs and actualize them. There are many tutorials and ‘how tos’ for both. Scratch is web based (although there are Scratch apps too) and can be found at scratch.mit.edu. It has a vast database of pre-made programs as well that one can examine and remix. Hopscotch (https://www.gethopscotch.com/) is an app for iOS devices and offers users a friendly environment to create and experiment with code. Both of these block coding programs are fun and easy to use and develop strategies and skills that are transferable to higher level programming codes.
There are other great resources that can be used to promote coding. Spheros (which can run about $150 for a Spheros 2.0) are programmable robot spheres. There are many resources at http://edu.sphero.com/ that have coding ideas. You would need to download an app (both iOS and android) to play. Another creative and innovative programming product is a Makey Makey. Makey Makey information can be found at http://makeymakey.com/ (and can cost about $75). This programmable control can turn items such as fruit, tinfoil, and even ketchup into cool and creative inventions. Again letting students play, ponder, and program with these resources gets them producing and experimenting.
So if you get a chance sign up and participate in the Hour of Code. If you miss out on this specific event, I would still encourage educators to look into and implement coding in your classroom. It can be done at any age, you don’t have to be an expert (not just for computer science class), and there are many resources available. There are many ways to implement coding in a variety of classes and met curriculum outcomes. Thanks for reading and happy coding.
Dean Vendramin. Educator for over 19 years. Currently Education Leader for Math/Science at Archbishop M.C. O'Neill Catholic High School. Have a passion for all things in education with emphasis on technology integration, assessment, professional development, and 21 Century Education. Posts are articles he has written for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation monthly newsletter The Bulletin, Saskatchewan Math Teachers' Society The Variable, blog requests from memberships he is a part of, and his own thoughts.