Computer Science Education Week is coming up December 4th through 10th and it’s time to think about how you can celebrate the Hour of Code with your students. The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) has partnered with Code Studio (a.k.a. Code.org) and Family Code Night to start a movement to expand CS education in schools throughout the United States. You can sign up your school and put them on the map or pledge to host an event. In my district in New York City, we have professional training with district staff for teachers to learn on their own or to participate with students. You can also find more learning opportunities through the Computer Science for All office and CODE Studio.
Here though are 7 ways you and your students can jump into computer science instruction.
- Large School Event – Code Studio provides toolkit and videos to help you host a large hour of code event. You can find guest speakers and helpers from the community.
- Family Code Night Event – Invite families for a night of computer science fun with a free event kit.
- Ongoing CS Instruction – You can extend your instruction beyond a single day. Code.org has full curriculums at various levels including ones for pre-readers, so literacy is not a barrier. Apple has their Everyone Can Code program which teaches Swift which is an easy universal programming language for all ages and levels. Codesters provides a nice transition between block-based coding and text programming and they have new Hour of Code options. The Exploring Computer Science program will fully train teachers in person and give them access to materials to create a complete credited CS program.
- Do Something Fun In Class – Computer science doesn’t need to just be about lines of code. There are great ways to engage students with games through platforms like Minecraft: Education Edition, Gamestar Mechanic, or Codespark Academy starring the Foos. Earsketch lets you make music with code and you can get creative with Pencil Code. Code.org also offers many other CS related activities.
- Do Something Fun Outside of Class – In addition to CS in the classroom, there are other exciting opportunities where students can continue their learning. This can be a major Hack-a-Thon or a smaller local one. You can also easily start a CS club with tools from Google CS First that provides themes to get the ball rolling along with free resources to help. You could also help students get involved with coding club organizations. Some of these like Girls Who Code, Project CS Girls, and Black Girls Code even specialize in making CS accessible to underserved populations.
- Make Something – You can turn to more hands-on projects in a Makerspace environment using Arduino or littleBits. MakeCode pairs well with Microbits, Adafruit, Sparkfun, and Chibitronics circuit boards and even allow you to practice programming them with virtual online versions of the hardware. You can even integrate coding and 3D printing through the BlocksCAD app.
- Get Offline/Unplugged – If you’re limited by the ability of your network or a lack of student devices, you can still effectively engage students in computer science learning. Some of the resources available include Mozilla’s offline icebreakers, CS Unplugged, or links to Hour of Code offline and device-free activities.
I have put more detailed information on some of these resources below.
You can also get starter resources, hack packs, and check out the CS4All Blueprint. SEPjr is an elementary CS program used throughout NYC. You can access all of their curriculum resources. Just like in coding, the curriculum breaks down complicated topics and vocabulary into smaller, more manageable hands-on offline and online projects based on the books Hello Ruby and Secret Coders.
Fill out the form to let the CS4All team know what you’re doing and how they can help.
There are an almost ridiculous amount of options for students to explore with the Hour of Code activities. One of the newest is their Minecraft: Hero’s Journey activity. It is practice for students to begin learning how to use the Code Builder in Minecraft: Education Edition.
Beyond the Hour of Code, Code.org has revamped their courses for elementary, middle, and high school. This includes express fundamentals and pre-reader courses along with new supplemental lessons for their standard courses. They now also have an app lab where students can create their own programs.
SCRATCH & TYNKER
If you’re looking for a place to start with simpler block-based coding Scratch is an awesome open platform created by MIT to teach coding. There are a ridiculous number of projects you can create and explore, so it might seem overwhelming. Gladly there is Scratch Ed which can guide teachers through a CS basics curriculum. For even younger learners there is the Scratch Jr.
APPLE & GOOGLE
I extensively discussed Apple’s foray into training the next generation of coders in my post Computer Science With Apple. Apple provides a full curriculum across K-12 (and beyond) through their Everyone Can Code initiative which teaches students to code using Swift language. They use game-based learning apps like Swift Playgrounds to guide students through the process to create games, apps, program robots, drones, and make music. There is a new Hour of Code Facilitator guide available. Other Swift curriculum related apps include iBooks, codeSpark, Tynker Coding App, and XCode.
Google’s CS First allows a teacher to play the role of a coach more than instructor as they simply direct students to explore the creative coding experiences Google has orchestrated using the Scratch platform as a base. The curriculum spans a broad range of interests to allow access points for students into fashion, sports, games, or social media.
This year littleBits introduced their code kit. It allows students to learn computer science through making. They can use the code bit, the LED matrix, and more to make and play games. The video and lesson resources pair with the coding app to get you going. Related resources include an Arduino kit and droid inventor kit.
The Code & Go Robot Mouse is good for young students to begin coding with robots.You can then move on to Wonder Workshop, Lego WeDo 2.0, and Sphero Edu robotics for more advanced integration. For more complete information, check out 8 Ways to Bring Robots to Your Classroom. In NYC, you can attend the Robots in the Classroom PD for further insights.