Cracking the Code

I read with some surprise a recent article on Silicon Republic following European Code Week (codeweek.eu) which took place mid-October. As I’ve written previously in “To Code or Not to Code”, I’m a big advocate of getting students to grips with the basics of computer programming however going by the little anecdotal evidence  out there, I thought the numbers of schools coding were relatively small. That’s why I was pleasantly imagesurprised to learn that recent European Code Week saw Ireland top the leader board holding 508 coding events, far ahead of much larger countries like France, Spain, Germany and the UK. Full details of of participation rates from country to country are available @ http://events.codeweek.eu/scoreboard/ but suffice to say the stats speak for themselves,  there’s an appetite out there among our young population to learn to code and the schools and clubs around the country leading this drive can only be commended. Whilst the numerous (77 and growing) Coder Dojo clubs have rightly gained much of the publicity there are many other clubs and schools doing pioneering work up and down the country. During the week, which saw Ireland punch well above its weight, only Greece came close with 443 events registered by the end of the week 11-18 October.

Hot on the heels of this success comes The Hour of Code week (December 8th – 12th), billed “The Largest Learning Event in History”, with millions of students in over 180 countries, participating in one hour of coding.

code.org logoThe Hour of Code is organised and hosted by Code.org and is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.  The project is backed by most of the major tech companies including, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple and online @ code.org you’ll find video tutorials from tech household names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Drew Houston, Susan Wojcicki and many more. I’ve been using these superb tutorials and in-browser coding tools with sixth class pupils in my own school since September and am genuinely taken by the impact they’re having. Working with two other colleagues our plan is to use code.org to introduce coding to the group (Who are completely new to the idea) and then later use Scratch for more creative and open-ended tasks. Beyond the Hour of Code activities there’s a number of 20 hour online courses on Code Studio with us currently engrossed in Course 2 of their Elementary School curriculum. From a teachers perspective not only is it brilliant to have access to such rich learning resources free of charge but code.org comes with powerful tools for managing classes and checking progress which simplifies getting started with coding.

As I wrote previously, I think introducing collaborative based coding  to primary pupils has huge potential and we are currently road testing a number of tools in addition to code.org with sixth class, including Scratch and Raspberry PIs. It’s early days in the journey but I’ll keep those interested posted on progress through this blog. In the meantime make sure to register your school in the The Hour of Code Week @ hourofcode.com/ie.

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