The Hour of Code

Reposted from Margit Boyesen and Kim Douillard’s Classroom Blog for Digital Learning Day:

In the MAC Class we began learning about coding…or computer programming…early in October.  We started with our mechanical robot, Beebot, and learned how to program commands to move it from one place on a grid to another.

From our mechanical robot, we moved to an app on our iPads called Hopscotch.  Hopscotch uses a visual programming language that has Lego-like blocks that link together to give commands to characters.  Derived from Scratch, a machine language developed specifically with kids in mind, Hopscotch enables the user to create animated designs using multiple characters moving as the programmer decides.

December 9-15, 2013 has been designated Computer Science Education Week.  This year some organizations collaborated to encourage schools all over the world to engage students of all ages to participate in the Hour of Code some time during this week.  As of Friday afternoon, almost 15,000,000 kids had experienced some version of an hour of code.  And, of course, we decided to participate!  (As did many classes in our school district)

Since our students had already been involved in coding with Hopscotch, for our Hour of Code we asked students to engage in a Winter Scene Design Challenge.  This was an open-ended opportunity for students to take what they had already learned about programming in Hopscotch to create a winter-themed design with their characters.

For us, as educators, coding is so much more than programming a computer to make characters move.  Coding is systems thinking…it gives students purposeful opportunities to problem solve…engaging them in the complexities of working with multiple variables that interact in different ways when combined in different orders–solutions are not not simple binary cause and effect scenarios.  The necessity of de-bugging and iterating also builds stamina and persistence and creates opportunities for collaboration and for students to teach each other along the way.

Here are just a few of the winter scenes students were able to create. Remember, these are static screen shots…the actual design is dynamic with movement that results in the design.

We also took the opportunity to interview a few of our students about coding and their learning to create a movie about our experience with the Hour of Code (see above).  The students’ words give only a glimpse of the richness that we experience through coding in the classroom.

Hopscotch isn’t only for kids.  We’d love to challenge each of you to try your hand at coding with Hopscotch…and you might call on your child (or borrow a child) as a mentor as you get started.  Hopscotch isn’t the ultimate in coding, even for students…but it is a great place to begin!  We see evidence of the problem solving, collaboration, and persistence transferring to other areas of learning as students see the purpose and benefit of iterating and studying their “failures” to increase their own learning.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with coding in the comment section of the blog!