In Shelly Moses’ K-5 classroom in San Diego Jewish Academy’s Lower School, students are putting away their pencils, crayons and paper and setting aside their books to learn an “Hour of Code.” Yes, that’s code as in computer science and programming.
Moses, SDJA’s Technology Integration and Curriculum Specialist for grades K-5, has arranged for her students to participate in the “largest learning event in history.”
“The Hour of Code is a one-hour activity — a spark to keep learning computer science,” said Moses. “Our students will be working with themes ranging from ‘Disney’s Frozen’ to the popular app, Flappy Birds.”
The Hour of Code (hourofcode.com) is organized by Code.org, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to expanding computer science education and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. The Hour of Code is celebrated during the annual Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8-14.
Students of all ages can choose from a variety of self-guided tutorials, from kindergarten up. Tutorials work on any modern browser, tablet, smartphone, or even with no computer at all. Code.org’s own tutorial features Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and video lectures from Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
Statistics from Code.org show that the technology and software fields lack diversity. The Hour of Code is a first step in fixing this, showing all students what computer science is all about. Last year almost half of all Hour of Code participants were girls, 8 percent were black and 14 percent Hispanic. Computer science students on average are only 18 percent female, 3 percent black, and 8 percent Hispanic.
President Obama and entertainers Shakira and Ashton Kutcher kicked off last year’s Hour of Code with video messages. For 2013’s Hour of Code, 15 million students in 170 countries participated and more girls (4 million) tried computer science last year than in the past 70 years!
Computer basics help nurture creativity and problem-solving skills, and prepare students for any future career. Software and computers are everywhere, but fewer schools teach computer science than 10 years ago.
Moses said that she will be conducting an Hour of Code with almost every class during the Computer Science Education Week.
“I said almost every class,” she added, “because some kids have already found my lesson assignment links and started the activities on their own!”