This is our fourth year (I think) of taking part in the Hour of Code, which nicely falls right within our video game design unit. I know that the whole Hour of Code gets some periodic push-back due to the corporate funding sources behind the week-long celebration of computer science, and that it gets flack from those who think the focused emphasis on programming and coding has gone too far.
Agreed. Somewhat. Still …
There are some pretty interesting projects available for young people to explore at the Hour of Code site, and during our time working on Hour of Code this week (as a break from our video game design project, another form of programming, right?), many of my students — particularly the girls — were very engaged in the learning and the playing.
So, there’s that. Which is a good thing.
I had some students — but not many — who had done Hour of Code either in other grades (but not at our school, alas) or in technology summer camp programs. At least one had come to our Family Code Night held last Spring. Those few with Hour of Code experience went into Scratch to work on some existing projects, sparking interest around them by other students.
I helped facilitate a Family Coding Night event at my school last night, and we had about 25 kids and parents attend the event, which is part of our push to get more families involved in schools, to introduce the possibilities of programming, and to show off the new laptop computers that our community recently purchased for our school.
It was a great event, with kids and parents working together on some of the Code Puzzle challenges. My math colleague came along, too, because he wants to design a Week of Code for our sixth graders in June, and is seeking some resources and support.
As I both helped and eavesdropped around the room, I could hear all sorts of problem-solving and congratulations going on between moms/dads and children. We had kids as young as kindergartener and as old as middle schoolers in the room.
Code.Org, which sponsors the Hour of Code, has a lot of information about Family Code Nights, if you are interested.
We didn’t spent an hour with coding this week, but I did introduce my sixth graders to the Hour of Code site yesterday, and gave them time to dig into some of the activities. As in other years, I explained why we talk about programming and code in an ELA class this way:
Not all of us will be computer programmers but nearly all of us will use technology. It’s good to have a basic understanding of what goes on “behind the screen” and to understand that people program the software that runs our games, apps and more
Programming is a logic puzzle, requiring patience and sequential thinking. The Hour of Code activities are engaging and move from easy to challenging in a solid way
We’re into our Video Game Design unit, and I have been sharing information and video about paths towards game design opportunities down the road, and computer programming, obviously, is a huge and growing field
Some of my students were completely hooked by the Hour of Code, and I will be using the site as an “extension learning” opportunity as some finish other projects. Along with a new activity connected to Moana, the activities with Minecraft, Angry Birds and Flappy Bird are all favorites.
In one of my classes, I had a student how already used Scratch, and a small group gathered around him as he taught others how to build an animation in Scratch, all on his own. I thought that moment was pretty cool and just let it unfold without my interference.
I was so focused on the Hour of Code activities last week with my students that I forgot that Google has put out some nifty coding activities, too. It’s “Projects with Code” seems aimed at girls, but that’s fine.
Yesterday, my son and I worked on the Holiday Tree activity, which allows you to work with the lights on the state trees in Washington DC using Blockly code. When you are done, it gives you a time when your “lights” will flash on the tree of the state you choose. Is that true? Neat.
Do the numbers matter? Not really, but it does energize my students when I work to calculate the combined and collective number of hours we spent this past week doing Hour of Code and related activities. This chart will be going up on our class blog this weekend.
Collaborative problem solving on the Frozen game with our kindergarten buddies;
Angry Bird coding on the Interactive Board;
Flappy Bird coding collectively and individually;
Working on programming and designing our science-based video game projects.
Do the numbers accurately gauge the interest of my four classes of sixth graders in the coding and programming concept? Not even close. They were invested and engaged, and even yesterday, a fair number were still working on coding activities during breaks with their game design projects.
Then, during each of our ELA classes, students collaboratively, via the Interactive Board, went through the Flappy Bird programming lesson. There were lots of encouragements as kids used the pen to program the game, and cheers when it worked. I struggled with finding a way to collect all of the Flappy Bird style games, so that as classes and as individuals coded the games, they could share them out for others to play.
I decided upon using a Padlet, which makes the collection visible, but a quirk in it means that when you click on the game link in Padlet, you have to find the source button to get to the actual game. I find that extra step annoying. The students didn’t, so there’s that.
Who knows what seeds got planted during the Hour of Code … and where it might take them.
One of the many great activities that are included at the Hour of Code site (and there are many) is learning how to program/code your own Flappy Bird-style app game. You can even share it out for others play after you learn and make your own game.
My son also made his own version — Flappy Santa — and was very engaged and had to do some problem-solving. But he found success and when he learned he could publish it for others to play, he was highly motivated.
I am sharing this programming activity with my students this week, as it is a perfect companion to our video game design unit. I have also set up a Padlet site, where they are going to gather and collect each other’s games. I’ll share later …
In case you are curious, here is the archived recording of a conversation that my colleague, Gail Poulin, and I had about coding and literacy and learning over at Classroom 2.0 Live. It was a lively conversation, with lots of sharing, and connecting into the Hour of Code initiative that takes place this week as part of Computer Science Week.
Along with the media archive, there is a long list of coding resources available at the Livebinder created for the session. While Gail and I had some started links and resources, it was the sharing by everyone in the session from around the world that makes the Livebinder a keeper.
In anticipation of the Hour of Code next week, my colleague Gail Poulin and I gathered her kindergarteners and my sixth graders together for our own Morning of Coding yesterday. We teamed up our classes, and each group worked on a coding activity at Code.org based on the movie, Frozen, where the task is to create visual fractals with Blockly code. Think of it like Legos as programming. (By the way, the activities at Hour of Code work great on interactive boards for whole-class activities and there are no-tech coding games available, too).
To be frank, we were not sure how it would go, but it soon become clear that the kids are alright … they figured it out (for the most part) and spent the time fully engaged as partners in code. Most groups got through about seven or eight levels of the game, but one group – two boys – almost made it all the way to level 20.
Gail and I will be on Classroom 2.0 Live later today (noon on the East Coast of United States), chatting up the PD webinar about coding and literacy and technology and learning. Come on over, if you have time, to participate in the conversation. We’d love to see you there.
I have the good fortune of being asked to hang out online this Saturday afternoon for a bit with my friend and colleague, Gail Poulin, as we talk about the Hour of Code, which kicks off next week. Gail teaches Kindergarten at my school, and we are bringing out students together tomorrow to do some coding activities as collaborative.
On Saturday, as part of the Classroom 2.0 Live series, Gail and I will be in a Blackboard Collaborate session (at noon, on the East Coast), as we talk about coding and literacy, and technology integration in the classroom. And, who knows what else we might wander into … You can join us, too, in the online discussion space.