December 11, 2016

Steps to Host an School-Wide Hour of Code Event


Are you an elementary school librarian interested in hosting a school-wide Hour of Code event?  Here are some suggestions to organizing a coding celebration at your own school.

What is Hour of Code?  For those who don’t know, Hour of Code is an annual coding event started by code.org, a non-profit organization with a goal to teach computer science to children all over the world, especially girls and students of color.  Hour of Code was launched in December of 2013, with 20 million students participating.  It continues to thrive today with over 300 million students participating in Hour of Code in December of 2016.  

Why should students lean to code?  Today’s students need to learn to code for future job success.  Coding is a type of literacy that students will be reading and writing for their future careers.  It will be the basis for every job in any field - like entertainment, medicine, education, agriculture and beyond.  The technology our students will create in the future will solve problems and make life easier and more enjoyable.  

How can school librarians and teachers learn more about coding?  To educate yourself as a teacher and advocate of coding, I recommend taking a code.org class.  Free courses for educators can be found on their website.  This one day class taught me coding basics and how to teach coding to my students.  


Why code.org?  This is a great place for students to learn the basics of coding and move towards more complex algorithms written in JavaScript.  Plus their activities are high-interest involving characters from Angry Birds, Star Wars, and Minecraft to name a few.  Their Code Studio teaches coding through Blockly.  Students simply drag and drop blocks in a particular order to write a program.  Hour of Code allows students to apply the basics learned in Code Studio in a variety of engaging projects.  Many start with Blockly and advance to writing JavaScript.  All levels are self-paced with tutorials and hints instructing students what to do.  Most of the time, students feel like they’re playing a video game rather than learning computer science!

Get your school involved in Global Hour of Code  The annual global Hour of Code event takes place the first full week of December.  To prepare, in October I asked my principal to support my efforts to bring this exciting event to our school.  With his consent, we chose one day during the week of global Hour of Code to host our school-wide event (we chose the Friday of that week).  I went to code.org and signed up my school to participate in the event - you’ll want to do this because the organization will send you fun promotional posters and stickers.  Also in October, we told staff the date explaining that their classrooms would engage in Hour of Code at some time during the day, but they could choose when and for how long.  There are wonderful promotional videos on code.org that I used to educated, encourage, and excite people (principal, teachers, parents, students) about the Hour of Code event.  I highly recommend checking out these videos and using them to your benefit.


During the week of Hour of Code in December, students were told at a town meeting they would participate in a coding event - they were pumped!  This same week, I taught students coding basics during library lessons.  I even held a ‘Lunch and Learn’ for teachers to learn coding while they ate lunch.  Armed with the basics, every classroom teacher in my building allowed time for students to participate in Hour of Code.  I freed up my schedule allowing teachers to sign up with me if they wanted my assistance.  Kingergarten and 1st graders did Code Studio on code.org, learning to code through Blockly.  Students in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade did Hour of Code on code.org, many were coding with Blockly while advanced coders were coding with JavaScript.  No matter their age or experience, all students were engaged and loved every minute of coding!

Looking towards 2017  I plan to host Hour of Code at my school again next year in December.  My hope is that students and teachers will continue to visit Hour of Code throughout the school year.  Hour of Code has four courses for students to work and advance through.  Hour of Code isn’t the only place to learn coding, the code.org website lists suggestions for other locations to learn coding.  Apple has Swift Playground and there are a ton of apps that teach coding as well. 

In the end, it doesn’t matter where students start . . . getting them involved is what is most important.  If you’ve considered hosting an all-school coding event, I encourage you to give it a try.  It’s easier than you think, and the benefit to students are great.  


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