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What Does the 'Hour of Code' Really Look Like at a K-12 School? What Does the 'Hour of Code' Really Look Like at a K-12 School?

What Does the 'Hour of Code' Really Look Like at a K-12 School?

by Melissa Alkire
December 14, 2013


"Anybody can learn to code." That’s the mantra of Code.org, and it became our school's mantra as well during the Hour of Code.

I'm a global history teacher and technology integration specialist at Beaver Country Day School, an independent school for grades 6-12 located just outside of Boston. On Monday morning we held a schoolwide "Hour of Code" as a part of Computer Science Education Week. Teachers throughout the school led students through a variety of tutorials and activities that connected their specific course content to coding. Simultaneously, teachers throughout the United States and beyond worked in a similar fashion to highlight not only the significance of coding in today's world but the practicality (and necessity) of it. As of today than 12.4 million participants have participated in an Hour of Code from December 9-15, exceeding the goal of introducing 10 million students to one hour of computer science.

So what, exactly, did Beaver teachers do during their Hour of Code? Most faculty members started by posing questions such as: What is coding? What are some coding languages? Where do we see coding today? Why do people code? Why does Beaver code? These conversations set a context for the Hour of Code, generated ideas, and provided insights for the teachers on how exactly to implement and differentiate the coding activities that were about to follow.

A number of teachers then used the tutorials provided by the Khan Academy for the day of coding, including tutorial I and tutorial II. English teacher Josh Rilla experimented with code by encouraging students to write a poem using coding languages. In visual arts, teachers used Pencil Code to design line drawings like this animated swirly graphic and challenged students to reflect on incorporating coding into their creative process.

Others went even further and turned the Hour of Code into a full day of coding. Eighth grade teachers Michelle Wildes, Kathleen Kosberg, and my fellow technology integration specialist Yolanda Wilcox-Gonzalez tasked their students with two coding projects: one focused on history and English and one focused on science.

The first project challenged students to code a program that would create an infographic showing statistical data of the migration of Puerto Ricans and Polish people to the United States from 1879 until 1970. Students are currently reading West Side Story in English class, so learning about the migration of these two groups into the U.S. gave students helpful background knowledge while also exposing them to practical coding. The second project asked students to create codes for programs in which they drew and animated ocean organisms they have been studying in science class. Here are a few examples of student work: BenFish, RyanSea Urchin, KalalaImmigration.You can also check out some clips from our classes here.

While the Hour of Code represented a synchronized effort to coordinate the entire school’s coding experience, it was not the first time students and teachers at Beaver Country Day School have brought coding into their classes. This fall, Beaver became the first school in the U.S. to implement coding into its core curriculum. By encouraging teachers to embrace coding outside of its stereotypical comfort zones of math and science, students at Beaver are learning more than just the mechanics of a coding languagethey are creating and imagining new possibilities for coding.

It was clear after our own Hour of Code that once the students overcame their initial hesitancy around "doing it right" and just dove in, they were willing to play with coding, make mistakes, and rework their understanding, initial goals, and outcomes. The students who started with a simple drawing of a square at the very beginning were proud of their accomplishments and eager to push further into coding. It was an exciting morning as Beaver students from 6th through 12th grade grappled with coding, brainstormed how they could use coding again, and challenged themselves and their teachers to think critically on how to make coding an authentic and consistent part of everyday learning.

It's not too late to try an Hour of Code at your school, and I'd strongly encourage you to do so! The Hour of Code website has plenty of educator resources to help you get started, and we found Khan Academy’s tutorials wxtremely useful as well. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much your students will learn in just an hourand how much they'll enjoy it. After all, anybody can learn to code!

Click here to say you believe every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code.

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