Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hour of Code: It's All About Literacy

Last week, one of our Technology Support Teachers invited me to the district's Technology Center for an Hour of Code. I hadn't paid much attention to Hour of Code as it didn't look that interesting to me, but a trip to the Dublin Technology Center doing something she seemed excited about made sense to me. I knew we didn't need a field trip to participate in this but a trip to our district Technology Center seemed like a real treat and a way to make this a big deal for my students.

I had about 3 days between the time Lynsey invited us to participate to learn a little bit about what this Hour of Code thing was. So I visited the site, watched some videos and played a bit.  I did a few lessons with my kids that introduced coding without using a computer.  The more we chatted, the more excited we all got as we were really learning the language of computers.

The day was a hit and the kids learned a lot. I am certain what they learned will change the conversations we have in the classroom.  While we were there, one of the news reporters asked me why I decided to participate. Was I a coder? A gamer?  Was this about career ed?

Luckily, I had thought about this as I looked at the site and got us ready for our trip.  As a classroom teacher, I am always thinking about how things like this fit into the bigger conversation of what we do in the classroom, especially in the area of literacy.  Obviously, this #hourofcode was worth it even if it was a one hour event and we never talked about it again. The thinking and problem solving kids did in such a short time was amazing. The response to mistakes and trying again made me happy. The fact that we were truly all learning together was powerful.  I am sure that one hour of code impacted them as learners overall.

But for me, this #hourofcode was about literacy. Maybe because I learned it with the kids. Maybe because my head is all around where the literacy is in digital tools. Maybe it was because of where our conversation had been before #hourofcode when it came to authors and decision-making.  But I knew that this hour of code would change the way my students would approach their reading and writing.  I knew that if they understood the behind-the-scenes work of digital creations, they would see what was possible in their own creations and they would also read and view more critically. Just as classroom author visits give us a sneak peek into some one's process, #hourofcode gave us a sneak peek into the whole digital creation process.  My students learned that everything that is programmed by a coder has to be decided upon and they realized how many decision go into a short digital creation.

I remember the first time I showed the clip of the Spaghetti Harvest to my students years ago.  The first few years I showed it, they believed that if something was on film, it must be true. I think that is still true for many of our kids today. Every year when I showed this video clip, the conversation changed as we discovered what the creators did to make it so believable.  The impact on student writing and reading was almost immediate as they began to read more critically and create with more intentionality.

I already see similar things happening because of #hourofcode. My students are already playing on the sites and apps they were introduced to.  Possibilities were opened up when it comes to what they can create.  They feel empowered as they have so many great choices in creation.  But I've seen a different stance in their reading as well and I imagine it will continue--Why did the author/creator do that?  How did that decision make the piece stronger is one we talk about across format, genre, media and this is a question that they now understand a bit more deeply. They understand that a person, a person trying to share a message or create a story, makes decisions about things on every game, website and video they see.  This is a big aha for them. And for me, this is an important piece of critical literacy.

Since our experience with Hour of Code, lots of little things have popped up around the classroom.  From my understanding, there will be a Code Club Meeting on Monday during Indoor Recess. Over the weekend, members were to try out some of the links they had played on and sign up to share their learning/tips.

And on the way out of school Friday, one of my students let me know he was taking his writer's notebook home for the weekend.  He informed me that two of them decided they wanted to create a video game. They weren't sure how to do it but they knew they could figure it out.  And they were going to work in their notebooks this weekend to work on the story and the plan.  

For me, Hour of Code is less about coding and all about Literacy. It opens up possibilities for creation and changes the way my students will interact with all forms of media. 

Last time I checked, over 15 million kids participated in Hour of Code. If you haven't had a chance to take a look at the site, check it out.  And if you want to read the news article in our local paper about Hour of Code, you can find it here.


  1. We love your take on the literacy aspect --it really is literacy. It is also just lets kids know about possibilities. Once you have an idea there are so many possibilities. Thanks for letting us see how this played out in your classroom -- always great to get an insider view of the impact on students. Thanks

  2. I love your connections to literacy. I've been thinking along the same lines as we delve into Google 20% and the importance of choice and the literacies involved. I'm going to check out more on Hour of Code. It sounds intriguing! And thanks for sharing your kids' work. Love the coding club. :)

  3. Anonymous10:32 PM

    I wrote about some local hour of code activities for my newspaper. Since most of the PR focus was on the tech skills and job readiness, this was great to read from a teacher the ways in which it can be connected to more abstract skills and the rest of what you're doing in class. Thanks fur sharing!

  4. Anonymous4:31 AM

    I really liked your post and was unaware of children being educated for coding at such a young age in school. The Hour of Code is still a distant reality in India. I see that you are very interested in promoting literacy. Almost 400 million literate persons in India are at best early literate. I had written about how literacy can be promoted in via compulsory same language subtitling of all TV channels. Please read my post here Hope you like it. All the best for your coding adventures with the clearly ambitious little lot your work with. Cheers!

  5. I had never heard of hour of coding until reading this post. Many people would say that technology, specifically video games and apps are rotting children's minds, and wasting time. This post sheds a positive light on how coding can be seen as a great learning opportunity! Critical literacy is such an important part of literacy development in students and this is a perfect example. I like that you pointed out to the students that the creators of any game or app have to make decision while writing, similar to how writers of novels must make decisions on where the story should go next.

    This is also a great way of using something that many students are interested in to peak their curiosity and interest. Anytime material can be related to what the students enjoy, it will be more meaningful and will resonate better. This hour of coding does just that!

    I teach in a high school, and like any other high school, cell phones are glued to every student's hand. They may be playing a game, using a social media website, or editing pictures. Regardless, it is something they are interested in. We are always preaching to students about finding career interests and preparing themselves for life after college, but I have never heard anyone mention coding. This would be a great first step to making students aware of a career in coding and possibly spark some interest in the seniors.


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