A BHS First: The Hour of Code

“The support was spectacular!
I’m glad Help Desk is promoting coding because
it is a really important skill for kids to learn at an early age.”

                                                                                                          -Gilad, BHS Class of 2014

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BHS students coding with Light Bot, Hopscotch, and more!

Last Friday, December 13th, Burlington High School experienced a first. It was the first time students had the opportunity to participate in the Hour of Code. The turn out far exceeded my expectations. Based on my estimates, there were between 25 and 50 students who participated in each of the Hour of Code sessions that were offered. There were seven sessions total throughout the day. Math teachers Tom Regan and Lauen McAuliffe, AP Honors Psychology teacher Rachel Gould, and Computer Programming teacher Jim Moriarty all had their classes participate in the Hour of Code. Students in Jim’s classes, which are based on MIT’s coding curriculum, worked on coding the entire week. Details of his Scratch project can be found here. My Digital Literacy/Web 2.0 classes worked on Hour of Code tutorials for 3 class periods, including last Friday. Adam, a freshman in my class, informed me as he left Friday afternoon that in total he had completed not one, but three hours of code! I’m hopeful the Hour of Code will evolve into an annual, school-wide event, especially since coding is a skill that can be integrated across the curriculum. Considering the positive feedback I received from students, teachers, administration, and our Ed Tech staff, I’m confident that will be the case.

“…that was really cool…
first time I’ve seen the school do something like that.”

  -John Allegretto, Systems Administrator, Burlington Public Schools

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My Period 2 Digital Literacy students showcase Scratch

The first Hour of Code at Burlington could certainly be classified as a”grassroots” effort, as it was somewhat informal and voluntary for both students and teachers, however I did employ a few specific strategies to help promote the event. I created a flyer with direct links to all of the tutorials. This was a useful resource throughout the week, since students were provided with a brief overview of what the tutorial entailed, and given a direct link to get started. My Help Desk students had each completed their own Hour of Code tutorial and had summarized their experiences on the Help Desk blog. Not only were their reviews of the tutorials useful for Burlington students, their summaries were shared by several educators across the country via Twitter (thank you so much Vicki Davis!). We also had the event promoted on the daily announcements throughout the week, and I encouraged my students to promote the Hour of Code amongst their friends through word of mouth. The excitement taking place in the Lower Library throughout the entire day made all of the promotional efforts worthwhile. As each group of students arrived, they accessed the Hour of Code flyer, selected their tutorial and got right to work. When asked, “what is coding?” I explained that it was essentially telling the computer what to do through specific instructions. Tim Calvin, our District Technology Coach, explained to a group of students that it was like, “GPS coordinates for the computer.” I talked with a group of students about career options available in computer programming and their interest was definitely piqued, especially when we started talking salary!

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Dr. Rachel Gould’s Honors Psychology students at the Hour of Code

“It makes my brain think”
-Cassie, BHS Class of 2017

The best part of each session was seeing students who had zero coding experience on their iPads, iPhones, and Chromebooks completing coding tutorials. Scratch and Light Bot were the clear favorites, but other students experimented with tutorials offered by code.org, Hopscotch, and MIT App Inventor. I heard a lot of, “I don’t know how to…” and “I can’t figure out…” followed by, “Yes! I did it!” When Lauren McAuliffe brought her class down, most of the period was silent, which clearly demonstrated to me how engaging coding was for her students. It was my favorite moment of the day!

Rachel Gould’s AP Honors Psychology student Jen Cooper, class of 2014 stated,

“I really liked the ability to watch what was happening with the Angry Birds. I could drag and drop the action and then I got to see the movement. It had a very basic concept but it had no real directions. I had to figure out which way I wanted the bird to move and it was some testing to figure out which way and how to get it done with the fewest number of lines. I always thought programming was so much harder but with the quick hour long experience, it really isn’t hard on the very basic level.”

My Digital Literacy/Web 2.0 student, senior Miranda Fiest, completed the codecademy tutorial added, “the tutorial was really helpful because it took me step by step.”

I think Jen and Miranda perfectly summarize what the Hour of Code was designed to do: expose students to computer programming and help them realize that anyone can learn this important skill. I’d like to thank the BHS administration for their support of this initiative and a special thanks to my BHS Help Desk crew for offering their assistance to their peers and playing a vital role in making the first Hour of Code at BHS a huge success! I can’t wait until next year!

Members of the BHS Help Desk

Members of the BHS Help Desk

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