Is An Hour Enough?

Hour of CodeLast month, students and teachers across Cambridge participated in the Hour of Code global event sponsored by and aligned with Computer Science Education Week. This event highlights the role coding plays in our society and encourages everyone young and old to try their hand at coding...for at least one hour. Their vision “is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, just like biology, chemistry or algebra.” Cambridge has participated in this event for several years, and with each year the Educational Technology faculty in the schools slowly migrate this “hour” into a more extended experience. In fact, at some schools coding happens in the first month of school and continues throughout the year, while in others it's not even confined to the school day but overflows into after school and home activities.

Hour of CodeThis commitment to the presence of coding in K-12 education is also valued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as evidenced in the recent release of the Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework. This scope and sequence of technology-related skills and practices dedicates an entire strand to Computational Thinking, which includes Programming and Development. By 2nd grade there is an expectation that students are able to create a simple code, and that expectation builds with each grade span to more complex conditional and looping structures within programs, as well as, the ability to design and debug in multiple languages. So, is an hour enough?

Hour of CodeBack to the events of last month, students were engaged in a variety of online and offline activities that gave them opportunities to create, analyze, iterate, communicate, collaborate, evaluate, organize, transfer and apply. These are all critical competencies in the 21st century for success in college, careers and as a global citizen. Sixth graders at the Amigos began their exploration in the Blockly language, but then transferred that knowledge to the widely used Javascript language. While students as young as three at the Tobin expressed their creativity through the design of recyclable material instruments that played sound through an amplifier. Other schools made the parallel of coding as a language as an entry point for students to think about communicating with computers and technology. And letters home to families with resources, connections at math curriculum nights, field trips to highlight careers with coding, and guest speakers all provided ways to expand the effort beyond the school day or walls.

Hour of CodeBeyond the hour, we are also seeing a steady increase of interest in the Computer Science courses offered at CRLS, expanding the offerings each year, and these students are identifying the exposure early on in elementary and middle school as a catalyst. The Educational Technology department is excited by these trends and empowered to think bigger than just an hour. We have begun the process of identifying available resources aligned to the new state framework, and will continue to plan how to expand and formalize offerings that provide pathways to coding understanding for all students in Cambridge.
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