Does the idea teaching computer programming seem impossible? ridiculous? TERRIFYING?! What if I told you, you could put together a brilliant learn-to-code program in less than 2 hours, EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER WRITTEN A SINGLE LINE OF CODE IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE?!!
In March, my colleague Diedre Winterhalter (@winterstacker) went in on a learn-to-code program called “Digital Blast!!!”. It was awesome. It was also a piece of cake. Seriously. And here’s the kicker: we’re both coding novices. In fact, novice might be a generous term for our coding prowess. And yet, we were able to give 12 kids an opportunity to learn fundamental computer science concepts in a fun, engaging hour-long program.
You’d probably say I’m crazy, right? Well I might be a little wacky, but this statement is true nonetheless: “HAVE NO FEAR, HOUR OF CODE™ IS HERE!
Hour of Code™ in a Nutshell
Code.org announced its “Hour of Code” campaign in October of 2013.
The initiative asks schools, teachers and parents across the country to help introduce more than 10 million students of all ages to computer programming during Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013.
In order to accomplish this goal, they created a series of brilliant, media-rich online courses for free. The 1st chapter is designed to give kids a yummy taste of computer programming. Here’s how they describe it:
Deidre and I tried it ourselves first. We also made sure we understood the skills involved in each lesson thoroughly. As a facilitator, you never know what’s going to trip up learners. I always try to think of several ways to explain a single idea so that when learners get frustrated, I can offer them more than 1 way to “skin that cat”. Deidre made short course evaluation (because she is an awesome rock star).
We booked our library’s fantastic new training lab. On the day of the program, we set up the computers beforehand. The kids filed in, Deidre gave a quick introduction. We played the first video on the big screen. And the kids got to work. Once the kids got into the course they were all moving at different speeds, and some of them watched the videos on their own. But we played a few of the videos on the big screen, too.
Deidre and I walked around, offering help when needed. But the best part was that when we were both occupied, the kids jumped in, and helped each other.
Actually, scratch that, THE BEST PART was when I pointed out the show-the-code button to a 5th grader.
She clicked on it, and went bananas.
At the end of the course, we collected the evaluations. They were all 5. They all included some version, “More programs like this, please!” Unfortunately, we plan programs months in advance, so we couldn’t offer a formal program right away. However, we have a very open-ended Maker Monday program, and we’ve decided to dedicate several meeting to the HOC! I’d love to see this snowball into a Kids Code Club.
The full course, Beyond the Hour of Code, offers 19 or so additional chapters in the same format. PLUS, a bunch of awesome printable, classroom-friendly activities that apply the computer science concepts to make-and-take craft projects. Here’s a video that explains the 1st project that explores binary code using colors instead of numbers:
You Can Do It!
The Hour of Code™ is super library friendly–provided said library has a computer lab and/or some semblance of adequate technical amenities. FYI: Tutorials work on browsers, tablets, smartphones, or “unplugged.” If you need more info on technical specifications, here’s a link to their info page for teachers.
Try it! You might like it!