Hour of Code

Thanks to Barbara Ray for this post!  As well as information about the Hour of Code, Barbara has put loads of links to really useful sites making it a very content-rich post if you follow even half of them!

”Mark your calendars. December 9-15, Code.org is organizing a campaign to get 10 million students to participate in the Hour of Code. The hour is part of the annual Computer Science Education Week, which encourages an interest in this fast-growing field.

Most students are intimidated by computer science. Or worse, it inspires yawns. It’s about the guts of a computer and really, who needs to know how it works? I watch a television without having to know how it works, right?

But coding is different. Coding is the DNA of information today, and the gatekeepers who know how to control information have the keys to the kingdom — dissemination of information is power. Those who code can control how and what information we see and when we see it. They are the new gatekeepers. Although the internet is built on an open-source, anyone-can-see-how-it-works ethos, it’s not exactly transparent if we don’t know how to read it ourselves.

The Hour of Code can be a start in giving kids the keys to the kingdom. The hour is part of the annual Computer Science Education Week, which encourages an interest in this fast-growing and foundational discipline. Over 3mm students are already signed up to participate across 20,000 schools in 160 countries.

Here’s how it works.

Sign up here, and then during the week of December 9-15, the folks at Hour of Code will offer several hour-long online tutorials. All tutorials are self-guided. All ages can participate. Kids can work in pairs or alone (pairs are better). The FAQ page has a lot of great information for teachers and schools, including links to toolkits and other resources. Consider recruiting all your teachers to get involved: share this brochure, and the homemade how-to videos. See http://hourofcode.com for more details.

If you have a smart board, you can have the entire class participate together on the shared screen. The class can watch the video portions together and take turns solving puzzles. And if you don’t have a computer or internet access, they’re offering “unplugged” versions as well.

And here’s the good part. No computers necessary, no prior experience necessary, and hallelujah, minimal prep time.

Here are a few more reasons to take part:

  • Kids who code do better in maths
  • Software jobs outnumber students 3 to 1
  • Teachers get 10gb of free Dropbox storage (cool)!

I personally would like to see a preponderance of girls taking up the challenge and learning to code. As the New York Times recently reported, just 5.7 percent of employed women in the US work in the computer industry, and only about 2 percent have a degree in a high-tech field. It’s a lucrative and rewarding field, and women are being shut out — and it often starts with a sense that coding is for boys.

Can’t make it to hour of code? Not to worry. Several other groups have taken up the cause.

Mozilla’s Hackasaurus was created to introduce kids to coding in a way that takes advantage of young people’s instinct to take things apart and put them back together. It introduces kids to HTML tags and other coding tricks. Their X-Ray goggles is a fun introduction to the architecture of the web, and is always a “wow” moment for kids when they realize they can change their webpage — even Google’s home page.

Girls Who Code is taking up the call to get more girls involved.

MIT’s Scratch, and Scratch Jr for the preschool set, can help kids of all ages learn essential programming concepts.

CodeAcademy is an online school that teaches a variety of coding languages.

And for all those future employers, you can display your coding prowess with an Open Badge in a digital backpack.

Looking for more inspiration? See our Top-Picks List on Graphite, The Best Engineering and Programming Tools, for apps and websites that teach students these important 21st-century skills.

While not everyone will become a programmer — not everyone who can tickle the ivories becomes a composer after all — coding will likely become a defining literacy going forward. At least a basic understanding will be necessary, and Code.Org is a great place to get introduced to the building blocks even if your kids don’t go on to write Javascript.

Register at http://csedweek.org.

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