Teaching the Hour of Code

My last day teaching in a high school classroom is this Friday. I’m not the kind to just mail it in on the last day, and yet, I don’t really want to go onto a new mathematical concept since a sub will be showing up Monday to deal with the aftermath from any absences or confusion from a Friday lesson. So what to do as a standalone lesson that is more of a supplement than core to the curriculum? Answer: The Hour of Code.

At the urging of our department chair, the entire math department is going to be participating in the Hour of Code, from the highest level AP students to the students in our most remedial classes. I just happen to be doing it a couple of days early due to my early departure from school for my new job.  If you have never heard of it, the Hour of Code is put together by Code.org, with the idea that every student can benefit from the exposure of 1 hour learning to code.

I embraced the Hour of Code for several reasons. First, I believe all students could benefit from the practice of having to lay out an algorithm in an ordered fashion. So many of my students have a hard time writing out their work in a systematic fashion that follows a few rules. While there are probably only a handful a future pure “computer programmers” in my classes, learning to think in an algorithmic fashion will no doubt benefit them mathematically. Second, there may be a few students who will be exposed to coding via an activity like the Hour of Code and decide to really run with it on their own. I was a student like that when I had a few lessons in GW-Basic back in the early 90’s. There probably are a few future programmers in my classes, and if this is the kind of activity that could encourage them to do some self guided learning. Lastly, there is no place is the curriculum at my school that exposes students to coding, not even a little. While I’m not sure that a single hour of coding in a math classroom is the best way for the students to get that exposure, it’s far, far better than what we offer our students now–nothing. According to the Hour of Code website, over 90% of American schools are just like my school in that they offer zero instruction in coding.

The Hour of Code website offers numerous activities for students of all ages and ability levels. I found activities that I could do with my honors students as well as my students in remedial classes. For my stronger students, we’ll be doing an activity in Python. For those that have a little less motivation, we’ll be using some graphically based coding activities that are a little more game-like involving a robot and Angry Birds. Once again, my school’s decision to go with iPads for one to one instruction is a bit limiting as some of the best activities don’t work with iPads. I’ll be checking out a set of Chromebooks from the library since all of the activities seem to work in the browser with no downloads required. However, if you are interested in trying the Hour of Code and have no technology available, they even have paper and pencil activities.

Officially, the Hour of Code runs the week of December 8-12, but I’ll be doing it this week since it’s my last week in the classroom.

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Lucas Allen

Lucas Allen

For more than a decade, Lucas Allen was a high school math teacher and math team coach in Illinois. His 2012 Morton High School math team won the Illinois state championship. Recently, he made the jump from public education to the corporate world and is now working as a data scientist. He is interested in just about all forms of technology, including the TI-Nspire, Nexus devices, R, MOOCs, and more. You can follow , and if you are nice, he will probably follow you back.

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