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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hour of Code in Shelby County

As many of you know, we are at the end of Computer Science Education Week, when students worldwide have been challenged to complete an #HourOfCode.   Programming is not only for future computer science majors.  As the Steve Jobs quote at the beginning of this video reminds us, "Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer...because it teaches you how to think."

President Obama made history by being the first President to participate:

Of course, coding is a gender-neutral endeavor, not just "for the boys."  As a father of two daughters, I am heartened to see the efforts of others (and websites like this) that give young female programmers a starting nudge.  After all, as this tweet reminds us:

 Computer programming may seem daunting at first, but from small beginnings big things come.  Websites  like offer fantastic resources -- for free! -- that teach coding in modular small steps that even our youngest students can learn from.

While at East Middle, I knew that Amber Hall taught a technology class to 6th and 7th graders, so I asked if I could slide on by.  Sure enough, she was having her students use to independently practice code.  The website allows the teacher to create accounts for the students and monitor their progress as they complete modules.  The students were incredibly engaged and dedicated to making their programs work.  For many of the lessons, it involves moving your game-like avatar around the screen in a prescribed way.  The code algorithms are "drag and drop" elements that can easily be rearranged, although the actual code can be seen with a click, much in the same way that the "compose" in Blogger shows "what you see is what you get," but you can click on the HTML button to see the underlying code.

An example from a student's screen. (from Heather McCall's class, SCHS)

Here is a tweet from Amber showing her students in action:

Amber is enthusiastic to receive some new Windows laptops in January so that she can have students assemble and program robots, using the same basic code algorithms they are practicing now.  Awesome stuff.

Earlier in the week, I emailed and tweeted out to Shelby County teachers to share their Hour of Code stories and pictures.  Here are some of their responses!

Valerie Ricchio at the Shelby County Area Technical Center had her students do an Hour of Code.

Laura Smith at West Middle is having her 6th and 7th graders in Robotics program their robots to move around.

Lest you think programming is only for middle and high school students, here's a Clear Creek Elementary student programming with the Smartboard, shared by LMS Vicki Stoltz:

Vicki also created a Symbaloo webmix of coding sites.

Heather McCall, an Engineering teacher at Shelby County High School, has her freshmen through senior students do programming all year long.  "We use ROBOTC to program motors and use input sensors to create robots and machines to accomplish different tasks. In Computer Integrated Manufacturing we program a CNC machine to mill parts out of wood or polycarbonate materials using G&M codes and AutoCAD for 3D modeling."   Here are some of Heather's tweets:

Let us come full circle back to East Middle. Using a class set of iPads, the students of Tina Eden (7th Grade Science) and Terry Walther have written over 6000 lines of code this week in an "Flappy Bird" coding program:

As a final tribute, here's' a Magisto video to Shelby County Hour of Code 2014!

The week may be ending, but that's no reason to stop teaching computer science and programming.  The free curriculum is out there, so keep using it!  Don't stress out if students know more than you do; learn beside them and let them teach you.  Take a breath and remember:

A very special #ShelbyTUITshoutout to all of the above educators, and thank you for sharing your stories!

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