Hour of Code

teaching

An hour might not seem like enough time to teach anybody anything about coding, and for the most part, that’s true. But you can teach the basics of what computer science is, and give students a familiarity with a subject that they previously didn’t know anything about. It’s also a low-stakes way to dip your toes into computer science.

The Hour of Code is organized by Code.org as a way to get more people involved in programming- especially people who might not consider themselves “typical” computer scientists. The “official” Hour of Code takes place during Computer Science Education Week in December, but you can try it out any time!

And it works. Here is just one stat from Code.org:

before and after hour of code

And I think this makes sense. It’s hard to be interested in something if you have no idea what it is.

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week is the first full week of December, in honor of the birthday of a pioneering computer scientist named Grace Hopper.

The CS Ed Week website contains a ton of resources:

Hour of Code

A ton of organizations were inspired by CS Ed Week and decided to create their own Hour of Code tutorials. Here are a few that use Processing:

So, if you’re a teacher, I’d recommend trying out a few of the Hour of Code tutorials and seeing what would work best for your students and classroom environment.

If it was me teaching, I would walk through Happy Coding’s Hour of Code using some simple slides and the Processing editor projected onto a screen, and with any remaining time I’d either have students draw their own scenes, or I’d walk through an example program (maybe chosen by the students) together.

General Tips

The idea behind doing an Hour of Code is not to turn students into expert coders. It’s to demystify computer science and take it from something they only see portrayed as difficult or mathy or nerdy, and into something that they understand, that they can do something with. With that in mind, I’d suggest the following general tips:

Start out by showing examples of stuff that can be made with code. There are obvious examples like making apps and websites like Facebook and Snapchat (I hear that’s what the kids are using these days) and games like Angry Birds and Minecraft. But consider focusing on non-obvious stuff like:

The idea is to show students that code can be used to solve whatever problems they’re already interested in.

Make it interactive. Instead of saying “here’s how we’d change the color to red”, ask the students what color we should use. You could randomly call on students, but I’d make sure the questions are general enough to not make anybody feel dumb.

Roll with the mistakes that you (the teacher) will make. If the students choose purple, but you aren’t quite sure how to make purple, that’s great! It might take you a few tries to figure out what combination of RGB makes purple, and that’s perfect! That’s exactly how real programming works. This is what I call the Bob Ross approach to coding: coding is just as much an art as it is a science, and it involves making a ton of mistakes. So I think it’s important to show students that making mistakes is normal. Forgotten semicolons, using the wrong order for RGB, taking a few tries to get that circle to draw exactly where you want it (and maybe realizing it looks better somewhere else), that’s all part of the process. Embrace it!

End with pointing to the next steps the students could take. Point them to this website (can’t blame a guy for shamelessly self-promoting), or to whatever makes the most sense for your students. Follow up the Hour of Code with lab time if you can, and give students ideas for things they could create!

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