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Published by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation

Hour of code

Posted: 02/09/17 9:00am CST

The Hour of Code is an initiative that has been promoted around the world to get more people to experience, understand and play with code. In 2016, Hour of Code events took place around the world the week of December 5.

To participate, all one had to do was go to hourofcode.com and register. You did not need to be an expert at code, but you did have to be willing to let students explore and play with code for at least an hour. There are many benefits associated with examining and constructing code. Many job opportunities, many of which don’t even exist yet, will require coders, and research shows that there will be a demand for workers with these skills in the future. Just like the importance of understanding another spoken language, the understanding of code will help students understand the world they live in and provide important 21st century skills. Most importantly, it will help students become producers rather than consumers and show them they have the ability to make their own programs instead of waiting for someone to do it for them.

There are many ways and resources in which one can use to get their hour in and more. Code.org is a great place to start. There are activities and coding opportunities for students of all ages. Using platforms such as Minecraft, Frozen and even the new Disney movie Moana, students can access opportunities to program code and make many of the characters in these popular games and shows do what the students code them to do. Many of these opportunities are in the form of block coding, so it is much like putting a sentence together in order to make objects move and do other actions. There are many tutorials and many opportunities to learn and have fun.

Two block-coding programs that are also great starting points for code are Scratch and Hopscotch. Both are free and allow students to formulate ideas for programs and actualize them. There are many tutorials and how-tos for both. Scratch is web-based (although there are Scratch apps too) and can be found at scratch.mit.edu. It has a vast database of pre-made programs as well that one can examine and remix. Hopscotch (gethopscotch.com) is an app for iOS devices and offers users a friendly environment to create and experiment with code. Both of these block-coding programs are fun and easy to use and develop strategies and skills that are transferable to higher-level programming codes.

There are other great resources that can be used to promote coding. Spheros (which can run about $150 for a Spheros 2.0) are programmable robot spheres. There are many resources at edu.sphero.com that have coding ideas. You would need to download an app (both iOS and Android) to play. Another creative and innovative programming product is Makey Makey. Makey Makey information can be found at makeymakey.com (and can cost about $75). This programmable control can turn items such as fruit, tinfoil and even ketchup into cool and creative inventions. Again, letting students play, ponder and program with these resources gets them producing and experimenting.

If you missed out on this specific event, I would still encourage educators to look into and implement coding in your classroom. It can be done at any age; you don’t have to be an expert (not just for computer science class) and there are many resources available. There are many ways to implement coding in a variety of classes and meet curriculum outcomes.

Thanks for reading and happy coding. If you have any questions on this, feel free to contact me at d.vendramin@rcsd.ca or follow me on Twitter @vendi55.

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