Computer Science Education Week

In case you’ve been offline for about the past month, today marks the first day of Computer Science Education Week.  A significant part of Computer Science Education Week is the Hour Of Code.

Have you ever wondered why they never have an Hour of Math?

  1. Every high school student gets that for homework nightly;
  2. It’s not needed.  Mathematics is compulsory.

They never have an Hour of English.  They never have an Hour of Science.  They never have an Hour of History.

The reason is simple – they don’t need to.  It’s compulsory.  The powers that be have determined that these are the learnings that today’s society requires of students.

Computer Science.  It’s a challenging concept for some.

<tongue firmly in cheek>

I’m imagining a group of decision makers sitting in a restaurant deciding what the curriculum should include.

  • “Well, in my day, we had to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic.  Gosh darn it.  Kids still need to do that.”

<A group of students walk by communicating via their smartphones>

  • “Not everybody needs to know how to work with technology.  I have my office staff set up my computer and phone for me.”

<Students at the next table are researching some topic for homework. (Why they’re in this fancy restaurant is beyond me)>

  • “For it to work, we would have to buy computers for every student. That costs so much and changes all the time.”

to be revised later on before submitting their project>

  • “Where are we going to get all the nerdy teachers that it would take to teach programming?”

<One student has a problem getting on the wireless but the student sitting next reaches over and two taps later, they’re both good to go>

<tongue out of cheek>

In all sincerity, Ontario does have a world class Computer Studies Curriculum that is the envy of many jurisdictions.  In fact, since it’s freely available on the web, it may in fact be reaching into some interesting places.  The problem is that it defines courses in Computer Studies at the secondary school level and the courses remain optional for students.  Some schools don’t even offer the course and those that do often have to offer split level classes to meet student demand.  The curriculum is, by design, not limited.  Unlike some jurisdictions that label their course by the language taught, this curriculum is based on programming concepts.  It allows the classroom teacher to be the decider of what language is appropriate for use.  It doesn’t need to be revised because another language comes along.

There are some incredible things happening in Computer Studies classes.  Students are exposed to the skills and mindset that lets them take control of the computing device in front of them.  Students are motivated to continue their students into the workplace, college, or university.

There are still a couple of voids.

  • Only a few elementary school classes have the opportunity of coding as part of their curriculum;
  • Not all secondary school students benefit from the skills learned in a Computer Studies course.  They don’t have to.

The concept of the Hour of Code is an attempt to raise awareness of coding and, ultimately, Computer Science.  Nobody is going to write the next big application as a result of doing some coding for an hour.  But there should be some big takeaways as a result.

  • Coding isn’t a skill limited to just a few;
  • Coding today isn’t your mother’s coding.  Development environments have really changed over the years.  I have no idea where I’d even find a green mono-space CRT;
  • If we can take control of this electronic device, we could do all kinds of things better with its use;
  • Coding lets us look at solutions in a deeper way.  It’s one thing to read about a solution; it’s quite another to create your own solution;
  • Students take home the excitement of creating their own application and parents get interested;
  • Is it time to rethink just what it means to be literate in the year 2014?

There are many educators who indicate that they will be participating in the Hour of Code.  Good for them.  I had put together some of the resources that I’ve curated and reshared them yesterday.

They’re there for your use.  Help yourself.  In a comment yesterday, Lisa Noble had asked what other schools will be participating.  If you are, drop a comment below.  Let’s see where this is happening.

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5 thoughts on “Computer Science Education Week

  1. Doug, I plan on having my Grade 1’s participate in the Hour of Code for at least a day or two this week. As I read through why there’s a need for an Hour of Code and not “hours” of other subject areas, I can’t help but wonder if there’s an overlap between code and these other subjects. I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t do the Hour of Code if it was an add-on. But I don’t think it is. As I went through different online coding options and various apps, I saw a ton of overlap between coding, 1:1 correspondence, and counting in math. I also saw opportunities for reading (decoding and comprehension) and writing (as students create programs that will “say” something). Let students code a map (even one of a sprite walking around the community or school), as a connection to Social Studies (showing steps and turns). There’s definitely lots of directional language with coding (at least in the intro activities). I know that there’s much more to coding that just what these curriculum overlaps provide, but I think that many skeptics are worried about the time taken away from the subjects they’re teaching. Time is limited. I totally get this, and share many of these thoughts. Seeing the potential for integration, I think helps. And the thinking and problem solving skills that students will acquire in the meantime will make this Hour of Code very worthwhile.

    Aviva

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  2. Aviva (and Doug),
    You’re right on, I think, with the integration idea here. That’s what makes this work for me – I can integrate a second language (for my really brave kids, they can put the commands entirely into french, which allows some DI, as well). For anyone who’s choosing to do the Frozen tutorial,there’s a big chunk of math (enough that this geometry impaired person had to really think as I worked through the challenge). For me, it’s the critical thinking/problem-solving piece that’s a big takeaway from this learning. Way to go!

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  3. I’m teaching Computer Science right now, so I’m trying to decide whether to take on something special with them or just keep on with the game development we’ve been doing.
    For my math class, we’re going to be focusing on using spreadsheets to solve data management problems. Hopefully we’ll have more than an hour of code this week, but devices are pretty hard to come by right now (which is sort of a good thing, I suppose!)

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  4. “Coding” as it is called now in education is blocky and tutorial driven. It is a place for people to get their feet wet and a great starting point. Everyone should have a go!

    My fear with the hour of code is that it raises awareness and trivializes computer programming. It’s not as simple as “move the bird four spaces down, two spots right.”

    I’m not trying to be a critic, but I worry about how simple “coding” appears to be and that ministries will fail to recognize the importance in programming – not just coding. Secondly, for many coding stops when the “hour” is done but I hope this isn’t the case.

    I like be the concept of the Hour of Code. I just hope the public interpretation is correct.

    My class did an hour of code back in September and continue to do so weekly, if not daily. We didn’t celebrate today, many students laughed at the thought of coding once for an hour. Made me smile. Thanks for making me think. I love the Hour of Math idea.

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  5. Pingback: OTR Links 12/09/2014 | doug — off the record

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