Hour of Code – Getting students excited about computer coding

This past December, schools across Missouri from Gateway Science Academy in St. Louis to the Parkhill High School in Kansas City participated in “Hour of Code” a global effort to introduce computer programming, also known as “coding” to children of all ages. The Hour of Code was developed to help expose students to the practice of coding. This year’s Hour of Code took place during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8-14, 2014. Hour of Code has become a global event with over 180 countries hosting more than 77,490

St. Peter's studentsHour of Code events worldwide. In Missouri, there were over 702 schools and organizations that hosted local Hour of Code events.

During Hour of Code, students, teachers, parents and interested minds, are encouraged to go on-line to various free websites that offer tutorials and games that teach what computer coding is and how to code. Each one of these sites like Lightbot, Tynker, Code Academy and even Khan Academy offer a variety of interactive tutorials many times in the form of an online game, that create fun, interactive ways to learn about computer coding while actually writing code. Code.org recently developed a children’s coding program that uses the animated characters Princess Anna and Princess Elsa from Disney’s hit movie, “Frozen” to get girls interested in the possibilities and fun of coding.

One Missouri charter school that hosted a coding program has earned a $10,000 prize to bring new technologies to the classroom. The Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology is located in Kansas City and serves students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. More than 370 students attend the school, which serves an at risk and high-risk population of students in the Kansas City Metro area.

As part of the school’s mission to integrate technology into the classroom, the school participated once again in this past year’s worldwide Hour of Code project. William Wells, the school’s network administrator, said more than 250 students, 15 community volunteers and three schools joined Benjamin Banneker school for the Hour of Code.

“Our Hour of Code project was absolutely a success,” Wells said. “In fact, our neighbor school, St. Peter’s who joined us, held their own Hour of Code Day for their students. So not only are our students more interested in coding, but we spread the fire to our partner schools St. Peter’s and Academie Lafayette.”

Each of the schools sent 10 students to the local Kansas City Microsoft store where they were provided with various technologies and participated in a special coding workshop using Microsoft’s new Spark Game Design program. Later that afternoon all three schools and the Microsoft Store joined aSTEAM Village and California based Tynker to launch a local Kansas City area Hour of Code event. Google Fiber, Mozilla, Hive Kansas City, Black Family Technology Awareness Association, Oracle and the Code for America Brigade sent volunteers to the area schools to facilitate Hour of Code lessons with the students and teachers.

As the case of Benjamin Banneker and many other schools around the state that participated in Hour of Code, this was not simply a one-time event. Many schools have embraced computer science and coding as a way to reinforce basic math and science principals for young students year round. For older students, high schools around the state are beginning to incorporate more computer science courses in career pathways.

That was the case of Jefferson City Public High School (JCPHS) when it recently introduced a new high school model called “The Academies,” that places focus on student learning around seven industry career pathways. The business management and technology academy provides students with the ability to take courses in the following areas of: programming and software development, network systems, information and support services, and web and digital communications. Providing access to these courses through a highly desirable academy like the Business Management and Technology Academy allows more Jefferson City students the ability to take a computer science course in the context of their career pathway.

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