It is truly amazing how our classrooms have evolved over the last 20 years. From chalk boards to Smart Boards. Pencil and paper workbooks to classroom sets of Chromebooks. Waiting on handwritten letters from a classroom across the country to real-time Skype conversations with a classroom across the world.
Each December, during Computer Science Education Week, students and communities around the world set aside time to celebrate the technology and ideas that spurred these changes and to consider and dream about those to come.
In honor of Computer Science Week, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction –OSPI – joined hundreds of thousands of other K-12 students, educators and community partners around the globe by hosting their own Hour of Code event.
Hour of Code is an international movement aimed at not only promoting the computer science field, but at proving that everyone can learn the basics given the opportunity. It is founded on the belief that 21st century success is built on a strong educational foundation that includes the computer sciences. Hour of Code is supported by influential tech businesses such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.
Hour of Code events can be held any time of year, anywhere and by anyone. OSPI hosted their Hour of Code on December 4, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and invited special guests that included Juan Lozano, CTE Instructional Specialist for Highline Public Schools, two of his former students, Highline high-schoolers Daisy and Aracely, as well as Evergreen Forest Elementary 3rd grade teacher Mary Ziegert and 10 of her students.
During the event, OSPI staff were invited to pair up with the students to explore coding basics through programs offered on Code.org. My first partner was Isabella. I was amazed at how well she read through the directions, carefully examined streams of code to locate missing pieces or errors and the corrected those errors to make the characters on her screen perform in the way she wanted them too. Even if she made a mistake, she would just tell me, ‘That’s okay. We can just move it back.’ She wasn’t discouraged, but rather inspired to explore other ideas.
It’s this freedom to explore that interests Aracely the most about computer science.
“Computer Science is intriguing to me because it is a puzzle. I am always asking myself, ‘How can I take what I have right now and make it better?’ For example, how can I take the simple four commands that the program is giving me and make it do what I want? You always are wondering, is there a better way? A more efficient way? How can I make it more fun? Computer science is what you make of it. When you keep asking questions and figuring out pieces of the puzzle it makes it all worth it.”
“I like that you can change the angle or direction you want to go,” added 3rd grader Gabbie. “I thought it would be hard, but it was fun because there were people to help and work through the program with you.”
It truly was amazing to watch the interactions between students and adults, to share in the ‘Ah-Hah!’ moments and for me, personally, to finally learn what exactly coding is.
“The biggest misconception about coding is that it is all about technology,” explained Juan. “Parents often worry that they need expensive devices to help their students learn and be successful. In truth, coding is simpler than that. It’s about learning how to think critically and solve big problems. Technology is the tool we apply after understanding is established to execute our plans. Coding is unique because it isn’t an interest area itself, but rather a foundation to working across interests and career paths.”
Evergreen Elementary Principal, Stephanie Hollinger agrees. “As we move forward with more technology in schools and incorporating more STEM into education, coding is a natural progression in that direction. I actually have many classes that already use coding programs for enrichment education for students.”
Daisy, who helped Aracely and OSPI Computer Science Program Supervisor, Shannon Thissen run the virtual reality station, saw the Hour of Code event a great beginning for the community.
“Not only are we introducing the concept of computer science and coding, but also giving them a place where they can experience it first hand and have support from others. This experience at an early age will allow the development of the concept to be much more exponential than having taken a single course in high school. They have the freedom to play around and figure things out as they work through it instead of being told what to do and how to do it.”
Next year, Shannon and her team at OSPI are looking forward to expanding Hour of Code to reach an even greater number of students and community members.
“I can see us expanding this event to additional schools and local agencies in the years to come. I look forward to bringing in more people to experience the fun of coding and share in the student’s excitement. My hope is that the students and adults learned during our Hour of Code event that computer science if fun and that when students are given the chance to increase their confidence through positive experiences it can help them see themselves as capable computer scientists.”
You can learn more about The Hour of Code and plan your own event by checking out Code.org.
“This was a very valuable experience,” reflected Mary. “I am thrilled that my students were able to be part of it. What touched my heart was the way this opportunity brought so many of these students out of their shell. Some of my students came out of the event saying things such as, ‘I can’t believe I did that!’ and ‘Wow, that was fun. Did you see me doing it?'”
Even more interesting… I heard the adults saying the exact same things.