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September’s Tech Tip: Planning Ahead for Hour of Code

The 2019 Computer Science Education Week will be December 9-15, 2019.  This is the time we celebrate with Hour of Code. In all honesty you can host an Hour of Code anytime of the year.  But this is just the “big week” when many of us join hands across the world and help our students be exposed to coding at beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels.

Why would we want to teach coding?  Because coding involves many of the skills our students will use now and in the future.  Coding is embedded in so much of our life whether we realize it or not. It helps foster computational thinking which you can think of as problem-solving skills where we analyze a problem and develop possible solutions.  Then the solutions can be tested sequentially in the order a computer would execute them.

And let me tell you that, YES! Coding is a big deal in the school library world.  A couple of years ago I attended a keynote where Hadi Partovi was the speaker.  He let us know that school librarians are the largest group of users in America for the Hour of Code website!  Can you imagine that! In case you’re wondering who Hadi Partovi is you can read more about him here.

There are so many tools you can use to make your Hour of Code a success.  But, you need to start planning now.  Work with your principal or district supervisor to select a date/week you will focus on coding with your students.  You’ll need to use that date to work backwards from as you plan. The Hour of Code website has a place to register your event so it can be added to the digital map on their website. At the time of this writing there are already 10,180 events already registered for 2019.  They also show there area 833,939,708 people served in 180+ countries. So help your campus join this global movement! Be a part of something big!

What will you do with the students? Well, actually it can be more than just students.  You can include the teachers. Have they tried coding? Would they see the value in computational thinking? And imagine if you invited the parents for a family night or opened up to the community!  WOW! Talk about #LibrariesTransforming!, let’s get back to what you will do with the students.

The Hour of Code website has an activities link where you can choose your students’ age levels, coding ability levels, type of technology you have access to, etc. This is all free!  It will even create a certificate of completion for you to award your students.  When I got started, I began by selecting lower elementary grade level content.  I zoomed through it to a certain point and then – BAM! I couldn’t just whiz my way through anymore.  I actually had to start thinking about the steps I needed to do. I kept telling the game- that’s not what I told you to do! But, I was wrong. It was doing exactly what I coded it to do.

And that’s exactly what we want our students to do- work their way through more and more advanced levels of thinking!  After I played through several activities over the span of a couple of weeks, I felt ready to introduce it to others.  (I was thankful it wasn’t available on my iPhone because I was getting addicted!) Really and truly you won’t have to do much explaining to your students.  They’re going to think they are playing.

After you feel comfortable with a couple of the games, go ahead and start thinking about your event.  Here is a getting started guide.  If you don’t have any tech, no worries!  They have an option called “No computers or devices” and all the activities they have listed there are done without tech!  This way everyone can participate!

Another resource for you is ALA’s Ready to Code website. This site was one of the 2019 winners for AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning.  They partnered with Google to provide librarians coding resources. You’ll find more than just activities for the students.  This website includes books/magazines, lesson plans/activities, program evaluation/assessments tools, and so much more.

So, no matter what level of coding experience you have, there is something for everyone.  If you’re worried about giving coding a try, do what I did and play for a while on the Hour of Code site as a 1st or 2nd grader.  You’ll soon see that it is just a place to play and learn while experimenting with different techniques.  And all along the way computational thinking is being developed.

I can’t wait to hear your coding stories.  Be sure to tag #LibrarianInfluencers when you share your success stories on social media.  You can do this and your students will be the winners for you trying something new.

Please share any coding resources you love! #LibrarianInfluencers

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