Did you know there’s an annual, week-long learning event that 663 million people ages four to 104 have already joined? It’s the annual Hour of Code Event that takes place from December 3 to December 9. This is a time when the entire world comes together for one hour to celebrate, explore, and demystify computer science.
The Hour of Code is the brainchild of Code.org and more than 400 partners and 200,000 educators. A mixture of one-hour tutorials, special events, and activities related to the field of computer science, the Hour of Code is a grassroots effort to illustrate the importance of coding in the classroom.
Whether you’re participating for the first time or hosting another event, coding education doesn’t have to stop once the hour’s up. Rather, with the increase in educational technology, it’s become easier to incorporate coding education into almost any classroom.
Investing in the Future
From visual coding to coding languages to programming hardware, coding is an everyday skill whose relevance for future jobs make it just as essential for students to learn as composition and algebra.
According to the Hour of Code, while 90 percent of parents want their children to learn how to code, the reality is that only 35 percent of high schools teach their students this skill. And only 26 states (including Virginia, California, and Florida) have developed K-12 computer science standards.
“I 100 percent believe computer science should sit at the level of mathematics, biology, and chemistry,” says Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi in an interview with Recode. “Today, computer science is mainstream, impacting every field of study and every industry. We should be investing in that future.”
When should students start learning how to code? The earlier the better, suggests Partovi.
“I think it should start in kindergarten,” he says. “At that level it’s not programming but computational thinking, and you don’t even need a computer. You can have kids write down recipes—organizing all the steps for making eggs, for example, is a lot like writing a computer program. And when you start kids really young, you reach them before stereotypes and negative associations set in, before they think ‘I’m a girl and I can’t do this’ or ‘This is just for nerds.'”
With this in mind, Kajeet has compiled a list of six ways educators can incorporate coding into their classroom.
1. Connect Coding to Writing
While it may not appear this way, there are intricate links between traditional language arts and the language of coding. In a story by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), author Julie Randles highlights some of the many programs that can help teachers introduce coding fundamentals into their language arts classes. These include lessons that show students how to create stories from puzzles and games, and robots that teach students about concepts like sequencing.
“When teaching coding and it’s natural extension, computational thinking, you’ll see increases in scores in reading because in order to make the programming work, they have to think computationally, they have to problem solve and they have to decompose problems,” says Heidi Williams, a former Wisconsin elementary school principal.
2. Use Makerspaces to Teach Coding
Some schools have created hands-on spaces where students can engage with, and practice, critical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills – including coding. And these spaces can also help fill in the critical gap that results from students who may not have readily available access to programs and technologies. Reports EdTech Magazine, “Unlike formal classes, makerspaces are always accessible to any student, making them ideal locations for students who may be interested in computer science but don’t have access to the tools they need to get started.”
Makerspaces provide a chance for hands-on learning that can teach coding skills.
3. Develop a Design Challenge Project
St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon, is a powerful example of how special projects can help students think like designers and coders. According to a story by Edutopia, students spent five weeks designing an app as a final project for their ninth-grade Technology Foundations class. The project strengthened their level of comfort with the various stages of technological design: research and analysis, defining a user problem, prototyping, testing and revising, and presenting a final product.
The teachers behind this design challenge project suggest using the following resources for K-12:
- ISTE Standards for Students: Use these standards in the classroom to ensure a student-driven learning process.
- Standford’s D.school: A collection of resources and workshops to help with design thinking activities.
4. Create Free Time for Coding Games
Mitch Resnick, co-creator of the programming language Scratch, calls out the importance of play when it comes to teaching students about coding. He believes in “getting students to work on projects, based on their passion, in collaboration with peers, in a playful spirit.” And one way to do that is to incorporate free time at the end of your classes for playing with coding games.
There is a wealth of apps and games out there broken out for elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, and high schoolers. Edutopia has created a resource for some of the most popular ways for students to play around with topics like loops, variables, and arrays.
5. Institute “Family Code Nights”
ISTE suggests that elementary school educators make time for what’s called Family Code Night, a school event for K-5 students and their families in which everyone codes together. “Elementary students tend to share their excitement about what they’re learning with parents, especially if they’re doing it side-by-side with parents at an event like Family Code Night,” says ISTE.
Check out the ISTE webinar, How to Bring “Family Code Night” to Your Elementary School, as a guideline to incorporate this program into your school district.
6. Participate in Hour of Code
Introduce students to the first of what will hopefully be many hours of coding to come. Whether your classroom has computer access or not, or even if you don’t have time for extensive lesson planning, there are still activities you and your students can participate in. The Hour of Code website has an extensive list of how-to guides for educators, parents, volunteers, after-school educators, companies, districts, public officials, and school assemblies.
However, you can host an Hour of Code any time of the year. Plus your students can practice these coding skills at home, just ensure every student has Internet access. Kajeet can help with that part.
Preparing Students for Life
In his interview with Recode, Partovi says K-12 coding education is about more than just high-paying computer science jobs. It’s about preparing students for the life that exists outside the classroom.
“Every industry, every field of science, every career is increasingly digitized, and students should know how the technology works,” he says. “We don’t need every student to learn to code because of the availability of coding jobs – we should teacher computer science because it’s a foundational skill and prepares them for life.”