Hour of Code 2015 is Here!

Hour of Code Day 1 (11)

We have been participating in Hour of Code since it started 3 years ago, and it is an event that inspires so many things within our school.  This week-long event coincides with Computer Science in Education week each December.  Code.org partner with numerous organizations to offer one-hour tutorials that are appropriate for multiple age groups.  When we first started Hour of Code, I tried to get students to all try specific tutorials, but many of our students have gained some confidence with coding and problem solving over the years.  I wanted to offer more choice this year and continue to focus on perseverance, problem solving, and collaboration in addition to learning some pieces of what it means to code.

On day 1 of Hour of Code, our 3rd grade came 2 classes at a time.  This meant 45-50 students in the library with their computers.  It’s a big group with lots of energy, but it amazes me how they settle in, don’t give up, and support one another.  I also had a 5th grade group and a second grade group during the day.

We started by sharing some things we know about coding.  We also talked about how many of us love video games or apps.  Pretty much all hands went up, and we pondered the questions: “What if the people who invented Minecraft (or insert any app or game here) gave up before they finished the game?”  We also pondered how many games are currently being invented out there that we don’t even know about and how many of the developers will persevere or give up.  It was an interesting way to set the stage for our work for the day.

We watched the official Hour of Code video.

Then, I showed students the Hour of Code website and the 4 main tutorials that were featured: Star Wars, Minecraft, Frozen, and Angry Birds.

I offered these as a starting place, but students were allowed to go to any tutorial they wanted to attempt.  My main rule was that I wanted them to really stick with whatever they picked and give their best try.

Students spread out around the library and got to work.  It took a few minutes to settle in, but all students stayed focused on the Code.org site.  I loved how they very naturally got up and helped one another when they got stuck.  A few students reached a point of frustration where they needed a break, so I pulled all of our coding books from the library as a place to go and take a break to just read about coding until they were ready to go back to work.  At some point, they all went back to their computer.

Hour of Code Day 1 (1)

I also loved that some students who speak other languages saw that they could switch the language on the Code.org tutorials.  Rather than flipping back and forth to Google Translate, they could read the site right on their screen, and these students were over the moon with excitement and were extremely successful in their coding.

The Code.org site was very reliable on our first day.  In the previous 2 years, we’ve had problems with the site crashing or being slow, but day one went really well.  I had some backup plans though.  One of the other activities that students were able to do in small groups was visit our Finch robots, which are on loan from Birdbrain Technologies.  Students worked alone to use Snap to program the robot to maneuver around the floor.  There wasn’t a specific task other than to explore what the robots could do and what each block of code meant.  Some students had the robots congregating together on the floor or even doing a dance together.  It was fun to see what they came up with in such a short amount of time.

As usual, teachers observed students who struggled in academic areas suddenly find a spark with coding.  I hope that seeing some of these students’ excitement will spark ideas for all of us in how we might use this momentum to connect to curriculum content.  We can’t dismiss the tools that get students excited about learning.  We need to embrace tools like Minecraft and the expertise that our students hold in these tools and consider how these might enrich the work we are doing together in school.

I can’t wait to see what else the Hour of Code week holds for us.

Finch Robots are Coming to Our Library Makerspace in Fall 2015

It is officially summer in the Barrow Media Center, so things will be a bit more quiet here on the blog for a few weeks.  Summer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and dreaming up ideas for the upcoming school year.  I’m excited to announce one of a few summer announcements that will be coming your way.  Our library makerspace will feature 12 Finch Robots by BirdBrain Technologies during the 2015-2016 school year.  The robots are on loan to us for the entire school year, and this loan comes with the possibility of these robots being a permanent donation to our space.

A few months ago BirdBrain Technologies announced an expansion of their Finch Robot loan program to include libraries.  I immediately contacted them to see if school libraries were included in this opportunity or only public libraries.  They encouraged me to apply, so it didn’t take me long to put together a proposal for these robots to become a part of our makerspace for use within the curriculum as well as our exploration time.  I’m also dreaming up some fun events for hour of code in December that will involve students, teachers, and families.  These robots will of course be a part of that as well.

We are excited to start exploring suggestions for using the Finch on their site.

What exactly is a Finch?  This video explains it best in three minutes.

I can’t wait to see what students are able to accomplish with this new addition to our makerspace.  For now, here’s the official press release from BirdBrain Technologies.  I’ll share what we do when the robots arrive in August.

Finches Land at David C. Barrow Elementary

David C. Barrow Elementary has been selected to participate in the 2015­2016 Finch robot loan program. The program will provide the school free access to 12 Finch robots for the 2015-­2016 school year, allowing over 600 students, teachers, and families exposure to an engrossing and interactive tool for learning computational thinking. BirdBrain Technologies, creator of the Finch, offers the loans to inspire young coders across the country, especially those who might not ordinarily have the opportunity to program a robot. The Finch robot is a product of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab. The Finch is designed to support an engaging approach to the art of computer science from preschool to college, with support for more than a dozen age­appropriate programming languages and environments. During 2014 Birdbrain Technologies loaned out hundreds of Finch robots to school districts across the country, and reached over 15,000 students.

1936 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

P: 888­371­6161 | F: 412­283­9134

info@birdbraintechnologies.com

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 2

2014 Day 2 (29)

Day 2 was a whirlwind with back to back class all day from 8AM until 2:30PM.  Once again, it was a day filled with perseverance, collaboration, and celebration as students figured out how to create pieces of code in apps and websites and run them.

Kindergarten and 1st grade continued to use the app “The Foos” by CodeSpark.  Today, I gave better instruction encouraging them to write the shortest code they could think of in order to get their character to capture the star.  We also did a few examples together by displaying the iPad on the screen.  This helped us to think about problem solving, trying something different, and visualizing the actions we wanted our character to take before we wrote code.

Our 2nd grade classes tried out block coding by using the Anna and Elsa snowflake game on Code.org as well as the Angry Bird and Flappy Bird game.  Once again today, the Code.org site was slow.  It didn’t crash, but it was still so slow that students were discouraged.  We visited it when we could, but we focused more of our time on Google’s Made with Code site.  This site was created to encourage girls to code, but we’ve found that it’s really a site for everyone.

Made with Code_Google

Students chose from 3 block coding activities:  making a yeti dance, creating a White House light show, and designing an animated snowflake.

Made with Code_Google choices

This was such a great tool for 2nd grade because it walked them through each step of adding blocks and then they could make adjustments to create various effects.  It was a great stepping stone to move on to something like Scratch or Scratch Jr.  In fact, we looked at Scratch at the end of each session and students better understood all of the menus in Scratch because of what they learned on this coding site.

 

Finally, the entire 5th grade came in for a coding extravaganza.  It was loud and productive.  They tried the three Scratch tutorials on Code.org

Get Creative with Coding   Imagine  Program  Share

Several students also used Made with Code to create more dancing yetis and lights.  I have a feeling that many of these students will be coding on their own tonight, in class, and over the winter break.

Hour of Code 2014: Scenes from Day 1

We had a great day of hour of code even though there were many technical difficulties.  We wanted to start our day with coding snowflakes using Anna and Elsa, but unfortunately much of our day gave us messages like this:

code dead

Just as great coders do, we didn’t let a road block get in our way.  We had many backup plans.  Our 2nd graders used Tynker to explore block commands.

I loved their pride when they reached the end of the hour!

2014 Day 1 (9)

Our Kindergarten and 1st grade students used the iPad app “The Foos”.  This was a new app for us, so we all had a lot to learn.  I quickly saw that students weren’t necessarily writing their full code and were still being successful in getting their character to perform by repeatedly hitting the run button.  This was great learning for me and helped to adjust my setup as we went.  I loved how groups of students would gather together to code together and offer tips.  I saw very little frustration, no tears, and lots of perseverance.

We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Hour of Code Day 1 and 2

The entire 5th grade came together to code using Scratch.

The entire 5th grade came together to code using Scratch.

I am so energized by the excitement I saw from Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade students yesterday and today during our Hour of Code.  Here’s what each session looked like:

1.  I asked them how many of them liked to play video games, iPad apps, computer programs, or knew someone who used Facebook.  Pretty much every hand shot up.  Then, I asked them how many of them knew how those programs were made and their hands shot down.  However, when  I asked how many of them would like to explore how computers and games are programmed, pretty much every hand went up again.

2.  We watched 1 or 2 videos like these:

3.  I briefly introduced the tool that students would use and gave them the short link.

4.  I gave some ground rules:

  • Coders don’t give up.  They try, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.
  • Coders collaborate.  Ask 3 other students for ideas or help before asking me.
  • Have fun!

Kindergarten and 1st grade students worked with Kodable to program a rolling fuzz ball to move through a maze collecting coins.  Our 2nd graders used Tynker to program a puppy dog to perform various commands.  Our 5th graders used Scratch to design an interactive holiday card.

At tables, I watched students leap into coding.  They hit speed bumps right away.  Many began asking one another, but there was still a tendency to ask me.  I helped at times but facilitated students talking to one another most of the time.  Since I had seen all of the tables, I knew which students had figured out some of the coding tricks.  I used this knowledge to nudge students toward one another.  Many of them really stepped up to help their peers and students who weren’t always looked to as an expert suddenly found themselves being the go-to person.  It was empowering!

holiday on ScratchAnother amazing thing was having the entire 5th grade working together in the library.  They were eager to jump in and use Scratch, which most of them had never seen or heard of.  For the most part, they quickly settled in around the library in groups or by themselves and got to work.  As they figured out things, they shared.  Some of them left having a complete card made.  Others left with a start.  All of them left with a better understanding of how to use Scratch and an excitement for coding.  There is great potential in this energy that has been generated.

Day 1 (21)Our days were not without problems.  Our school internet seemed particularly slow.  The Hour of Code sites were also swamped with visitors, so these two combinations made some of the tools impossible to load.  We had to completely change our 2nd grade Tynker lesson on day 1 because it wouldn’t load.  Instead, students used blockly and Kodable.  Kodable was our reliable app of the day.  When students all tried to login to Scratch, they kept getting bumped out.  Also, they had trouble signing in, so several left without a chance to save their work.  All of these glitches didn’t dampen the excitement for coding.

Throughout the days, students added some reflections about what they learned to a Flipgrid.  This grid was also shared on Twitter so that students in other schools could add as well.  We have several more lessons planned across Wednesday-Friday and next week students will participate in a coding smackdown in Google Hangouts.  They will have a chance to share their learning and creations with others around the country.

Hour of Code is Coming This Week!

We are very excited about the opportunities planned for our students in the library this week.  It’s Computer Science Education Week and to celebrate several classes in grades K-5 will participate in Hour of Code, which gives kids hour-long experiences in a variety of kid-friendly coding tools.  The hour of code site has multiple step by step tutorials to help kids learn some basics of each coding tool, while allowing them the freedom to be creative.  Theres’s something for every age from 5-106 🙂

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program dedicated to showing K-12 students the importance of computer science education.

Organized by the Computing in the Core coalition and Code.org, CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).

Why would we want our students to learn computer coding?  Take a look at some of these statistics.

more-jobs-than-students

job-student-gap

2012-hs-ap-enrollment

Some of our Kindergarten and first grade students will use an iPad app called Kodable.

kodable

Second and Third grades will be exploring both Blockly and Tynker.  Some first graders will also try Tynker.

https://i2.wp.com/www.tynker.com/image/hp/course-intro-to-programming-videotutorial.jpg

Tynker Intro

Fourth and Fifth graders (and perhaps a few other students too) will make holiday cards with Scratch.

During the week, we plan to make connections with other schools around the country who are also participating in Hour of Code in order to allow our students to share, brainstorm, and problem solve across the miles through Skype and Google Hangouts.  On December 17, we will participate in a live Google Hangout On Air where students will share their coding creations and learning with students in multiple states simultaneously.

The intention of Hour of Code is to give as many students as possible experience with coding, which will hopefully lead to both individual exploration or class projects in the future.  I’m prepared to be amazed this week by what students discover.  Look for posts throughout this week to share our progress.