Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hour of Code Achieved!

The JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon was an incredible success this week thanks to the over 800 students and their teachers who participated in this global event.

I had prepared several backup plans in anticipation of the Hour of Code site being overloaded as experienced last year but was pleasantly surprised that there was only one day that required the use of a backup plan.

Once students had been introduced to what Hour of Code was and had begun working toward their certificate, Pandora Top Hits station was turned on. Ms. Gilliam’s 3rd Block class was delightfully entertaining to watch as the class would unanimously belt out popular song lyrics as they coded.

As students completed the Hour of Code and earned their certification they were encouraged to challenge themselves with other coding activities found on the JCHS #HourOfCode Symbaloo.  The most popular of these alternate activities was Code Combat, Flappy Bird, Made with Code and Scratch.

Highlights from the week included teachers getting into the excitement and earning their Hour of Code certificate and their students telling them, “Yay! Great job!”  Ms. Patricia Williams telling me how “mad” she was that I was doing this activity the week before final exams. She then told me she was wrong to be mad as Hour of Code strengthens all the skills students need every day and especially test taking skills: critical thinking, self evaluation Arion and revision, use of prior knowledge, attention to detail and so much more.

Several students earned their Hour of Code certificates in multiple scenarios, including Baylee who earned FIVE Hour of Code certifications. My favorite highlight however was when a student asked, “Can we do Hour of Code at home?”

It's not too late to try Hour of Code at your school or at home! Coding is now considered to be a basic literacy just like reading, writing and basic mathematics. Going through life in the near future without a basic understanding of coding will feel similar to going through life not knowing how to read.

Get your code on!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day One: JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon

This week kicked off the momentous world wide Hour of Code! At James Clemens High School we have pledged to do an Hour of Code Marathon with classes doing Hour of Code all week long every block of the day.

Ms. Mendez got JCHS started when she brought her 1st block students to the Harvard Room.  We began the session by talking about Hour of Code and why knowing the basics of coding is important. We watched the introductory video (below) and then started the Star Wars Block Coding challenge together.  

Once students had a grasp of how to proceed through the Star Wars Block Coding Challenge students took off on their own to earn their certificate of completion.

Once students had earned their Hour of Code Certificate they were encouraged to explore other coding activities found on the JCHS #HourOfCode Symbaloo. (see below)

It was exciting to see the day get started and go so well.  Ms. Mendez brought not only her 1st Block class, but her 2nd and 4th Block students too.  Ms. Courtney brought her 3rd Block students and Ms. Laura Smith brought her 2nd Block students.

The only hitch in the day came during 3rd Block with Ms. Courtney's students.  The site apparently had a large amount of traffic at that time and we had to go to Plan B.  Plan B took students to the Code Combat site where they learned how to code in Python or JavaScript while inside of a video game.  This seems to be a favorite alternative!  Made with Code is another site that is usually accessible and has a variety of fun coding activities.

The day was busy but fun and I am sure that many students who had never heard of coding before left feeling confident in their abilities to code!

Follow our Hour of Code adventure all week long via SnapChat and on our Instagram album.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon Challenge

The third annual Hour of Code is rounding the corner next week to the delight of students and teachers around the world.  James Clemens High School is joining in this monumental collaborative event with an #HourOfCode Marathon.

Classes at James Clemens High School have signed up to use both the Harvard Room and the Library to simultaneously throughout the week of Hour of Code so that students can participate.  Teachers are also encouraged to use our laptop carts, Chromebook carts and iPads carts as well as student's personal devices to participate in Hour of Code from their classrooms.

If this is your first year to dip your toes into the wonders of Hour of Code I hope that the resources and tips below will help your adventure run smoothly.

First, Hour of Code is a GLOBAL event reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries.... all at the SAME TIME!  This means that even if you have done everything to set your students up on the Hour of Code website to participate, the site itself during the Hour of Code week may run extremely slow or not work at all.  Have a BACKUP PLAN!

To help with this mass flooding of the Hour of Code site I have set up a Symbaloo with alternative sites and activities that can be used in lieu of the "official" Hour of Code activities.

The first row of links come directly form the Hour of Code website and include some of the online coding activities students can access.

The second row takes students to the Tynker website and the variety of coding activities available there.

The third row consists of coding sites that teach coding using JavaScript.  

The fourth row contains links to unplugged coding activities.  Have a few of these activities ready to go just in case the Internet gets bogged down from so many people participating in Hour of Code.

The fifth and sixth rows contain "other" coding sites that your students might enjoy.

My Plan:

I like that when students access and compete the "official" Hour of Code activities the receive a nice certificate.  However, I don't feel that these activities appeal to all students.  Therefore I have a multi tiered plan for the JCHS #HourOfCode Marathon.

Students will begin with learning about what Hour of Code is and why James Clemens High School feels this event is an important event to participate in.  We will review the site with an emphasis placed on the map that shows where Hour of Code events are taking place.  

We will watch the video below and then answer student questions about Hour of Code before beginning our coding activities.

After watching the video we will attempt to access the Hour of Code Star Wars coding activity (blocks) as a group and I will model the first few stages of the lesson with student guidance.

Students will begin independent coding activities by taking a brief Google Form survey to see what their level of coding ability is.  Based on their answers students will be directed toward a variety of coding sites that suit their individual coding levels.  Students will be directed to be aware that some sites may be sluggish or not available and to simply move to a different site among their choices if needed.

Some my favorite coding sites I will have recommended for my high school students to access include:
  • Code Combat- This site allows students to choose from six different coding/programming languages.  Students learn how to code with the programming language while inside a video game.  They must code correctly to get their character to move, fight, jump, etc inside the video game.
  • Scratch- This site used block coding and has really good step by step directions that middle/high schoolers should be able to follow with a little help from friends or the teacher.  My 3rd & 4th graders last year created interactive virtual holiday cards and emailed them to their parents during Hour of Code 2014.  (Be sure to have parents send their current emails ahead of time)  
  • Made With Code- This is a year round favorite!  I look forward to coding the National Christmas Tree but there are some many other fun activities at different levels of coding ability available on this site.  
    • Yeti lets you program a monster to dance.  The kids get a kick out of this!
    • Accessorize lets you have coding fun with selfies! 

  • Hot Wheels via Tynker lets your car enthusiasts build courses or hack a race track! 
  • Code Monkey is good for the little ones.  I did Code Monkey with 1st graders.  I started by modeling and thinking out loud as they helped me write the code to move the monkey to the banana.  Once I felt they understood the concept I challenged them complete a level all on their own.  You could almost see the wheels swimming in their heads!

My Unplugged plan is to code a dance.  I love this because it brings music and dancing into our Hour of Code week which the kids love.  I had PreK and Kindergarten students as well as 6th graders pretend I was a robot and they had to write code to program me to do a dance.  I did the Hokey Pokey with the little ones and the Cotton Eyed Joe with older students but any song and dance will work.

Hour of Code has a good variety of Unplugged activities you can choose from is dancing isn't your thing! Just scroll down the page and look for "No device or Internet?"

Donna Macdonald, Librarian at Orchard Elementary School in Vermont, wrote a great article for the School Library Journal last year about how she organized her school's Hour of Code, including some pretty cool unplugged activities! Her school even received a check for $10,000 from Hour of Code just for participating! 

What are YOUR plans for Hour of Code?  

What activities, websites, or apps do you recommend? 

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