Holton, RV students participate in "Hour of Code"
Students at Holton and Royal Valley schools participated in a worldwide initiative last week that introduced them to computer science and taught them the basics of coding websites.
More than 74 million students participated in an “Hour of Code” last week at code.org, writing 4,018,788,352 lines of code. The act of “coding” is writing a program in programming language to create the building blocks of a website.
Designed as games and activities, students were taught code by familiar characters, such as Elsa and Anna from the movie “Frozen.” But instead of building a snowman with the “Frozen” sisters; students were building websites.
“A few individual teachers participated in the ‘Hour of Code’ last year, but this is the first year the entire school district took part,” said Annie Brock, Holton High School library media specialist.
Students across the district logged onto one of more than 20 tutorials on code.org last week to learn about computer science. The site is tailored to all levels of students – kindergarten through high school.
“The idea is that many schools don’t offer computer programming classes, so this gives students exposure to coding and hopefully it sparks some of them to learn more,” Brock said.
The “Hour of Code” is especially geared toward female students and minorities, it was reported.
“For whatever reason, coding is seen as a man’s game,” Brock said. “But it’s really simple. We have kindergarten students doing it.”
Besides the “Frozen” sisters, the tutorials also feature “Angry Birds” characters and zombies.
“Computer science is a growing field,” Brock said. “In 2020, it’s estimated that there will be one million coding jobs, and only 2.4 percent of kids right now are majoring in computer programming, and an even smaller fraction of those students are women and minorities. We’re preparing kids for jobs we don’t even know exist right now.”
Heather Hundley, kindergarten teacher at Colorado Elementary School, spearheaded the “Hour of Code” project at the school after participating in the program last year.
“It went really well,” Hundley said. “The students were very engaged, and it really helps develop critical thinking skills like perseverance and problem solving.”
Hundley said that students in the school worked on coding for 20 minutes a day last week, and noted that all the teachers in the school were excited to participate in the program.
Code.org also incorporates science standards and other curriculum as the students are working through its tutorials.
“It’s real world application. The job growth in computer science is rising rapidly,” Hundley said. “There are currently 4,840 computer jobs available in Kansas and the numbers keep going up.”
Hundley said that with a building wide commitment to participate in an “Hour of Code,” the school was able to register for a drawing to receive a $10,000 grant for technology purchases through code.org. A winner was selected from each state, and in Kansas, the winning school was Argentine Middle School.
Students at Royal Valley Elementary School also participated in the “Hour of Code” last week during computer lab, which is taught by Sandy Williams.
“I have every kid, every day so I thought this would be a great place to introduce coding to the students,” Williams said.
With many students logging onto code.org on Monday, the site crashed, but Williams said that RV students had better success participating in the tutorials throughout the rest of the week. Kindergarten and first grade classes worked through the tutorials together as an entire class while the older students worked individually.
“The kids love it, and it’s amazing all the other skills they are learning,” she said. “The are collaborating. When one gets stuck, they’ll ask a neighbor, and it’s fun to sit back and watch. They really have to think ahead when they’re coding. This also helps them with their organization skills and planning out their programs. It’s a domino effect.”
Williams said some students are progressing quickly through all the tutorials.
“The students are so adaptable,” she said. “We’re the ones who put limitations on them.”
In January, Williams is taking the “Hour of Code” a step further by teaching a 20-hour course on coding through code.org.
“They have everything educators need to implement a course like this,” she said. “It’s so hard to keep up on the latest technology, but it’s fun because I’m learning it too. We, as adults, might look at something and think it’s too hard to learn, but these students grab a hold of it and embrace it because technology is their world.”
Launched in 2013, Code.org is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color.
The organization’s vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Members believe that computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.