Thursday, January 1, 2015

How an Hour of Code Became So Much More

A year ago, I started this little venture into the blogging world.  I have always written.  I am an English teacher by nature.  However, I just didn't see how I would have the time, energy, or resources to be able to blog on a regular basis.  I set myself a New Year's resolution last year to be "a little better every day".  What an adventure this last year has been!  Happy Blogger Anniversary to me (I think I'll buy myself some chocolate for the occasion)  But-that's for another blog post.

December 8-14 marked Computer Science Education Week and once again our students were thrust whole heartedly into the world of the programmer.  Code.org and others put together incredible resources for those of us guiding both young and "old" into this uncharted territory. After last year, I thought they would be hard pressed to find a way to improve what they made available, but alas, I was wrong.  This year there were more activities, more celebrities boasting of the benefits of learning code, and even encouragement and participation from President Obama himself.  With over 90,500,000 participants, I would gather that there are many more that feel the way I do.

Students in grades K-12 participated in the Hour of Code at Rock Valley Community Schools.  It was an incredible experience.  I was in lower elementary classrooms, middle school rooms, advanced math classes, special education classes, industrial tech classes and more! You know that joy you feel as a teacher when kids "get it"?  That spark of energy and excitement that gets you deep in your craw?  Well, imagine getting to see it with each class that I went in.  Another in a long list of perks of being a K-12 technology integrationist.

A Foster Grandpa (aka my dad)
What brought me more joy than anything was seeing the age gaps disappear.  Everyone was new to this endeavor.  Whether it was one of our Foster Grandparents, a classroom teacher, or a student, we all did code.  In one second grade classroom, I heard a giggle of joy and turned to see that it came from one of our wonderful Foster Grandmas who had just mastered another level of Angry Birds. Awesome.  Just awesome.

The "giggling grandma"
What I found myself teaching surprised me.  It was perseverance.  I think that it's a growing trend.  Things get hard, people quit.  We can't have that.  After a few classrooms, I found myself switching up my modus operandi. Writing code wasn't hard, but it required them to stick with it, even when the answer didn't come the first time.  That was, by far, the most difficult part for them.  We had to think, try, reassess, and try again.  It opened teachers' eyes, and mine, to the fact that these may be skills we have to work on a lot more.  When the going gets tough, try harder.  Learn the value of hard work.  Feel that glow that comes with success after effort.  This week taught us much more than when to capitalize and when to use semicolons in a line of code.
Even teachers learned code!

I have the glorious benefit of being an instructional coach in addition to being the technology integrationist.  I am constantly working with teachers to help them plan and develop lessons that help them reach the goals they have set out for their students and classrooms.  You can bet that the lessons learned through our week of code will make their way into many discussions on how to best prepare our kids for their futures.

Interested in trying code?  Don't want to be outwitted by our Foster Grandparents?  Good luck. Give it a shot.  http://studio.code.org/.