Reflection: Relevance Hour of Code - Section 2: Work Time


For my second year teaching the "Hour of Code," I decided to spend an entire week on the project.  On the first day, students worked on the same introductory Angry Birds/Plants and Zombies activity as last year.  For scaffolding on the second day, I used this introduction to JavaScript with Karel the Dog, which echoes the recently-retired GridWorld labs of AP Computer Science, and which gives kids an initial opportunity to write the code, rather than just moving code blocks.  

Then, for the rest of the week, I asked students to choose whether they'd prefer to learn web-design or more programming, and I outlined the differences for them.  As they made their decisions, I told students to sit on opposite sides of the room, to ensure that they'd be sitting next to classmates who were working on the same project and could help each other.  "We'll have our programmers over here, and our designers over here," I said, feeling like quite the project manager.  I assigned students to work on Code Academy: the intro to Web Design for the designers, which provides an initial taste of HTML, or the intro to JavaScript.

I want to be clear how deeply I believe that spending a week like this is such a benefit to my students.  Yes, we are taking a week away from the traditional Algebra curriculum.  But more than just offering exposure to some skills and knowledge that continue to grow in importance, I see this as a chance to practice the kind of literacy and problem solving that are prerequisite to success in high school mathematics and beyond.  

Kids must read instructions carefully to figure out what each page of a tutorial is asking them to do.  That's what we hope they'll do any time they see a contextualized word problem, and here the feedback is instant: you know right away whether or not you've been successful.  They also have to attend to precision (Mathematical Practice #6), by getting all the syntax right.  Again, that's something I hope they'll do every time they write mathematics on paper, but this time, it's not just me giving them a hard time that they mixed their signs.  Rather, they see that a computer is far more picky than even me!  If they miss one semi-colon or misplace one HTML tag, nothing works.  It's incredible to watch as students take ownership of these understandings, and we'll all benefit as we return to Algebra, and continue to dig deeper into the Spring semester. 

  Hour of Code 2014: A Week of Code, plus MP6
  Relevance: Hour of Code 2014: A Week of Code, plus MP6
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Hour of Code

Unit 6: Mini Unit: Patterns, Programs, and Math Without Words
Lesson 3 of 10

Objective: SWBAT make sense of some fundamentals of computer programming.

Big Idea: Computer programming allows students to frame problems that are not written, and to experience the cycle of frustration and elation. This particular activity also sets us up to start talking about lines on the coordinate plane.

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