I recently volunteered at my daughter’s elementary school to help with the Hour of Code program, and it was awesome. So now I have to share what the Hour of Code is and how we as parents can all still use the resources (whether your child did it in school or not), since I thought it was just so neat to see kids getting into coding. It is run by Code.org, a 501(c)3, so the whole thing is a non-profit organization / movement – it’s all free and designed to demystify code for kids from 4-104 and make it fun for them to start understanding computer programming (tutorial choices include MineCraft, Frozen, Star Wars, Angry birds, etc.). Can you tell that I loved this?!
About the Hour of Code
So the idea behind the Hour of Code is to expose students globally (it’s in over 40 languages) to (duh) an hour of code via volunteer-run activities in schools or organizations. Next year I am so getting involved in this earlier but this year I basically just responded to the call for volunteers at the school and showed up at my designated time. I will tell you all about what it was like during the Hour of Code at school, but I especially wanted to write because these are basically self-guided tutorials, so even if your child didn’t have it at school you can use the program with them (or have them use it themselves, depending on how old they are) at home, to do the same tutorials (they leave them up year round). Now my daughter comes home and asks if she can “do more coding” and it’s a treat for her to get to sit and do a little more on my iPad (although they have resources for other devices or for ways to learn with no electronics, more on that later).
Here’s their intro video if you want to check it out:
The Hour of Code Tutorials:
Here’s what the tutorial looks like when you’re inside it, using the Minecraft option (you can see all of the tutorials at https://code.org/learn). The general idea is the same across the tutorials – kids can pick a character (and there is always a female choice, hurrah!), and then each tutorial is broken into 15 or so activities that get progressively more and more complex. At school we got the class of kindergarteners through the first three activities (some did more, but all got to three) in a 45 minute period and we thought that was great. Doing it at home with my daughter we do two activities in a sitting, so when they call it an hour of code I think only older kids who can read could actually get through it in an hour!
Children start by choosing a character:
They’re then assigned a task. On the first level, some code is already filled in:
Kids then look at the commands and drag the ones they want over to the coding area on the right side of the screen:
They can hit the “Run” button to run their code at any time:
If the code is wrong or not complete the program will offer a suggestion on how to fix it:
When they write and run the code successfully, their character executes it and jumps up and down:
They then get a congratulatory message which includes the ability to see their code if they want and continue to the next level:
As kids complete a puzzle, the next puzzle builds on what they’ve learned and becomes more challenging. Here are a few screenshots from puzzle 3 – see how much more kids are getting exposed to versus level 1?
The Hour of Code site also has some suggestions for unplugged activities, like the Thinkersmith’s Unplugged Hour of Code Activity:
The Hour of Code unplugged activites were mostly designed for a classroom setting, so I also just ordered this game called Robot Turtles Game on the recommendation of some parent friends who have it (this isn’t recommended or not by the Hour of Code people, I’m just digressing for a minute here since I though others might want to know about this too). It is apparently the most-backed board game in Kickstarter history plus I remember the Logo Turtle from my elementary school days (please tell me I’m not the only one). I like that you use cards for different commands so that younger kids who can’t read can still play and learn how code works. I’ll report back once I get it but the reviews are good and several parents mentioned it to me. If you have more ideas on how to introduce kids to programming, please use the “Comment” button below – I’d love to hear them!
Overall I thought the Hour of Code was fantastic and a great non-profit organization and I’m so glad my daughter’s school participated. We will definitely try to keep up with it as long as she’s interested, and I hope this post encourages other parents to sit down with their kids and help them try it out. It’s definitely something that can be done at home, too, and they have tutorials and programs for all ages!