This past week, students, parents and a host of other volunteers took part in numerous programming sessions, here at SIS, for Computer Science week. For those not entirely familiar, this week is also known for the Hour of Code – a global event that encourages students to participate in self-guided activities in an effort to develop their computer science skills. That said, it is easy to see how different cross-sections of our school galvanized behind the idea and brought a learning opportunity to our students that was challenging, authentic and personalized (CAP).
Although there are a range of tools and platforms for introducing coding to students (code.org, scratch jr, arduinos, etc…) we opted to go with Swift, a general-purpose programming language developed by Apple that is perfect for iOS and the iPads we have here at SIS. With a space (ES Library) the tool (swift) and clear sense of intent the event was resounding success. It was great to see and hear the questions being asked, the thinking being made visible and collaboration students were engaging in as they figured out the inevitable challenges this type of coding presents.
I heard things like “this is so difficult” but then another student quickly chiming in “at least, it’s not impossible”, “How can we solve this..?” Additionally, as the exploratory sessions unfolded it became clear that most students were still obsessively coding when their hour was up – some of them, having to be ripped away from their iPads. Others opting to come back with their parents for a second session after school. All in all, very few students zoned out during the hour. Engagement was high all around, and thanks in large part to the team of (student, parent and teacher) volunteers who helped students get unstuck at critical moments they were able to experience success at each level of the various modules. As educators, it is this type of engagement, resiliency and maturity in students one hopes to see.
As the week ends, I am motivated to go beyond one hour and see all of the ways this could be integrated into the various aspects of life at SIS. I never expected students to deeply learn how to program from a single hour of coding, however, I am certain these sessions have motivated students to continue onward and, perhaps more importantly, to reconsider how many of the devices, apps and games really work. For those wanting to continue this journey with your child, your students or by yourself, please click on the resources below:
Swift (middle years, iPad)
Code.org (all ages, web-based)
Lightbot (early years, iPad)
Scratch (all ages, web based)
Scratch Jr. (early & middle years, iPad)
Tynker (early & middle years, iPad)