Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hour of Code- It's Like Magic

By:  Lucy Dixon, Librarian @ West End Middle School

How to light a technological fire under middle schoolers: combine students with Hour of Code and throw in a tech guru from the local community.  The result?  Fireworks!   In this warp-speed world of computing, jobs in computer fields dominate our lives.  And it’s just going to grow.  Like reading, it is a librarian’s responsibility to introduce computer coding and foster a life-long love for it.  Being an IB school here at West End Middle, the global week of Hour of Code was a natural match.  The students were very taken with the concept that students throughout the world were doing Hour of Code this week.   

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous because we’d never officially tried it with an outside community member.  Emily Bristow with the Nashville Technology Council arranged for Chris Peck with Computer Technology Solutions to visit West End.  Chris was terrific.  He was prepared, having studied the Hour of Code website.  He introduced coding with a brief intro describing what the future looks like for computers and what kind of classes will help with future computer careers.  He mentioned that there will be technology jobs not even yet invented.  He touched on potential salaries.  Wow!  His relaxed demeanor made the students feel comfortable interacting with him.  They asked questions and were eager to show off their coding results.  The students had been chosen by math teachers in each grade.  I wanted a variety of ages and abilities.  Clearly some students had never explored computer coding.  “It’s like magic!”  Those who had were happy to share their knowledge.
 
You could practically feel the electricity from all the synapsis popping in the room as the students explored the Hour of Code site.  Students chatted with their neighbors while staying laser focused on their screens.  The site is very easy to use with dozens of coding programs targeting preschoolers to high schoolers.   There are filters to refine the search results.  The site used block coding and javascript.  It also linked to sites that used coding techniques such as ‘Sketchup’.   Students were creating art, geometrics, and games.  One student was eager for me to try his new game.  He coded it so that as soon as the opponent made a move, it said “Game over.”  Cracked everyone up!

I would recommend a few things for Hour of Code events.  
  • Introduce yourself to your community contact.  Chris and I arranged for a phone call to make sure of expectations on both sides.  By the time he arrived, I felt like I already knew him.
  • Be sure to check all computers to make sure they are fully charged and on the domain.  Have a few power cords nearby just in case.  
  • Skip the headphones. The site does not require them and the students didn’t miss them at all.
  • Post the name of the Hour of Code website where everyone can see it.  
Lastly let me share a couple of takeaways.  Even though I was nervous about hosting the event, I now feel confident to teach classes on coding using the Hour of Code site.   I received several thank yous from parents, teachers, and students via social media and stopping by the library.  There’s nothing better than that, right?  And best of all, Chris enjoyed the event so much he has promised to come back next year.  Hour of Code - a new West End tradition!                                                      

Blogger:  L.Dixon @WEreads
West End Middle School

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