Rebecca Hoskins, Maker VISTA
Computers are a ubiquitous part of life in the 21st century, but most people have never written a line of code. 10 years ago that wasn’t a problem. But in the technological age, in Silicon Valley, it is a crucial skill to give our students, who will one day need to find jobs in this competitive tech-saturated area. That’s why Ravenswood City School District encourages all of the teachers in our district to teach their students an hour of coding during Computer Science Education Week, which was held December 5-11. We were aided this year by Hewlett-Packard, who sent several wonderful volunteers to help our students learn the basics of writing commands for a computer.
Many teachers in Ravenswood are Hour of Code experts, like Allison Smith, who coordinated the event - complete with student volunteers - at Brentwood Academy. Allison is also part of the district “TECHIE Team.” The TECHIE Team is a group of Ravenswood educators and administrators that meets monthly to discuss effective use of technology in the district. Ms. Smith is a great advocate for computer science education. She trained 5th grade students to deliver Hour of Code activities to students at all the other grade levels at Brentwood. We had a few newcomers to the tradition this year as well, like Ms. Garcia and her 1st graders at Los Robles, and Ms. Krippendorf and her 3rd graders at César Chávez.
The kids love the games on code.org, which provide training in basic coding concepts by asking the player to move characters from popular games and movies through a maze, or along a track. One might think that 1st graders might have a hard time with coding, but the biggest problem for Ms. Garcia’s 1st graders seemed to be that the mice and keyboards were not made for a 6 year-old’s little hands. There was one student who had never held a mouse before. But a volunteer gently explained how to move the cursor and how to select something by clicking the mouse, and he was off and running. By the end of the hour, the student who didn’t know how to use a mouse at the beginning had finished all of the levels of the basic game and was crowing happily about his success. All of the kids wanted to do another hour of code again soon.
In Ms. Krippendorf’s 3rd grade class, the kids knew their way around the computers pretty well. Some of them had even played the games at code.org before, and most of them finished all of the levels before the hour was up. They are bright and excited, and coding is just another thing they do at school now. This normalization of coding is the goal, it is the reason why we celebrate Computer Science Education week and give our students an Hour of Code.