Friday, April 8, 2016

Hour of Code; Captivating students with "WHY"

**It's been a looong while since I have written a blog post.  I have been wrapped up in integrating technology on a daily basis, whereas before, I was doing a couple big things and would have time to write about those things.  Now, the technology integration has become so routine that I would literally have to write a blog post every day to describe the different things that we are doing in class.  I have a few drafts backed up too that I cannot find the time to get done either...but I could not NOT rave about the experience my students had during the Hour of Code last week!!  
(NOW, this was 4 months ago- I started the draft of this blog in December and am just now getting to finish it!)

This will only be my second year doing Hour of Code with my students, but I am still obsessed with it and fully support computer sciences in education and exposing our students to the existence of computer science/coding as an area that they could focus on in high school/college in order to grab a high paying, tech focused, FUN job that they could be happy with for the rest of their lives.  
(I have even been considering a career change myself, haha...) 


I mean, I have come in contact with some real genius students the past few years who would do nothing but thrive in the computer science/coding career area.  I have come to realize that as a teacher, it is my responsibility to expose and guide my students, even though they are only in 5th grade, to the possibilities that lie ahead of them.  I mean, if I don't tell them about it now, will they ever get the chance to hear about it again?  

I will inspire someone...

This year though, I changed my approach to Hour of Code.  
Instead of just telling them about it and putting them on the computer to have fun, I used a few different resources that I found to go deeper with them into the Hour of Code.  I committed myself to making sure my students understood the WHY behind the Hour of Code...
"This isn't just an hour that we take out of our normal, academic day to "game" on the computer.  This will really have an impact on your futures."

This IS their future.  

Just look at the job market stats for computing jobs in Texas...

43,862 open computing jobs vs. 1,813 science graduates

The students' curiosity and excitement started in November when I hung up the posters that mailed to me.  I then introduced them to Hour of Code by showing some of the motivational videos on the website.  I literally can't even show the videos without getting all teary-eyed- I see their eyes light up and hear the comments and "oooos and aaaaaahs" as they listen intently to well-known people talk about coding- Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, etc.  
Then, the real magic- children of all nationalities, some with the same color skin as theirs and speaking their language, flash across the screen shouting 

"The Hour of Code..."

I now have them completely enthralled.

The next step in our Hour of Code venture was to watch the movie Code Girl, which I found linked on the Google homepage one day.  Although we couldn't finish viewing the rest of the movie because they took it off of YouTube, my kids, especially my girls, were hooked!

As we neared Code week though, I found THE perfect opportunity to connect Hour of Code to a real world purpose for my students.  I either found these sessions through an email or on Twitter, but they were live virtual sessions, presented through NEPRIS, with real people who have careers in coding.  I thought, 'Wow, this is exactly what I have been looking for!'  I am definitely no expert and would actually be interested in being more informed about coding myself, so I signed each of my classes up for one of the sessions.  
One was called "Careers in Coding at AT&T" and the other was "Life's Better with Computer Science."
I signed up for our sessions Monday and scheduled our Hour of Code to take place on Tuesday.

I cannot RAVE more about these virtual sessions provided by Nepris!  I even read up on Nepris before I joined the sessions and I found that Nepris is based in Plano, TX (which is where I live) so I definitely had to give them a try! 

I was also hooked by their mission statement:  

"Nepris came out of a real need we heard from educators, industry leaders, professionals and community partners alike, to reduce the barriers between industry and education. Our core mission: Making industry engagement part of the everyday classroom by empowering teachers to engage students in STEAM!

Nepris connects teachers and students with the right industry experts, virtually without having to spend much planning time or leaving the classroom while providing an effective way for companies to extend education outreach and create equity of access."

I was confident that these sessions provided by Nepris would be the key to my students' understanding of the relevance of Hour of Code to their futures.

The people at Nepris and the presenters were down to earth and accessible.  This made our experience all the more relevant and real.  They interacted with us by tweeting us back and they encouraged us to continue on our coding journey.


Besides the fact that our sessions were helping us understand the why behind Hour of Code, the thing that I loved about our session with Nepris was how intimate it was- my kids were actually selected to ask some of their questions live, and some of the questions that we texted in were also read live!  I was so impressed with the thought that my students put into their questions and they were more than thrilled to hear their questions read and answered!

Here are some of the questions that they asked the presenters:
"What other job offers did you have and how did you decide on AT&T?"
"What's the best programming program you have used?"
"What exactly could a computer scientist do for a living?"
"How do you think technology in the future will be able to help improve our health?"


 Our sessions with Nepris were the missing link that we needed to understand why we would be incorporating coding into our classroom more often.

First session with my a.m. class

Second session with my p.m. class
     Going in to school on Hour of Code day is different, just different.  I'm anxious and pumped up because I know my kids are more excited than usual and happy about coming to school on this day.  
      But this year, it was especially different since we had made Hour of Code relevant to our lives and connected it to our futures...they knew this year that this hour (and beyond) is truly important.  
      Wearing my #edtech shirt that day to work, I felt that I was exactly where I am supposed to be and I am doing exactly what I was meant to be doing.  As I made my way around the computer lab, exclamations of challenge, excitement, and triumph could be heard...  
                     "They say 3 blocks?!  You can do it in less than 3!"
-a student encouragingly said to his best friend, who was coding on the computer next to him as a huge smile appeared across my face...

                        My students WERE the motivational video that day...