Attention students and teachers: Get your Chromebooks, Arduinos and robots ready.
This week — Dec. 5-11 — marks the eighth annual celebration of Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). Since 2009, CSEdWeek has been a joint effort of the Association for Computing Machinery, agencies like the National Science Foundation and tech giants like Google and Microsoft. It’s held in early December to coincide with the birthday of early-20th century computing pioneer Grace Hopper.
This year, it seems the students and educators have even more reasons — and opportunities — to explore computer science in K–12 education.
1. More Options for Hour of Code than Ever Before
Launched by the nonprofit Code.Org, Hour of Code is described as a “one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify ‘code,’ to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science.”
Code.Org makes it easy for teachers to host this tutorial by providing activities for all ages on its website. Some of the activities have familiar faces like characters from Disney’s Frozen and Moana.
Thanks to Microsoft, this year students can explore a Minecraft Hour of Code.
“This tutorial allows players to create their own custom game experience, plugging together blocks of code to control the behaviors of sheep, zombies and other creatures,” writes corporate vice president and head of Microsoft philanthropies Mary Snapp, in a blog post.
Also new to the Hour of Code this year is a collaboration with athletes like tennis star Serena Williams and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.
Schools around the country have embraced Hour of Code and other CSEdWeek activities. Somerville Public Schools in suburban Boston touts CSEdWeek’s benefits in demonstrating just how all-encompassing knowledge of computing can be.
“Hour of Code is such an important event not only because of the educational value it offers students, but also because it allows students to experience first-hand the impact that computer science and coding have on their everyday lives, and to do it in a way that is fun and relevant to them,” says Somerville superintendent of schools Mary Skipper in The Somerville Times.
2. Celebrate the Expansion of AP Computer Science Classes
EdTech wrote about the launch of a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course that began this scholastic year and saw a huge turnout.
SOURCE: The College Board
Another big victory for computer science education came with the increase of girls taking the AP Computer Science A exam, up to 23 percent this year, Education Week reports.
Zach Goldberg, the senior director of media relations for The College Board, told Education Week that AP Computer Science A is the fastest growing AP exam.
“We see a positive trend of females and underrepresented miniorities taking on the challenging course work that will help prepare them for college and career success in critical STEM fields,” Goldberg says.
3. Growing Support of Federal Agencies
Almost a year ago, President Obama announced the Computer Science for All initiative, aiming to give students the STEM skills they need for today’s workforce.
Today, to kick off CSEdWeek, the White House issued a fact sheet of all of the actions taken by federal agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Science and Technology Council, and NASA.
“Through these federal partnerships, students from groups typically underrepresented in the STEM fields will have access to high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based STEM activities, as well as opportunities to connect directly with STEM professionals, to cultivate interest in the field and enhance college and career readiness.”
The NSF and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should also be presenting some special CSEdWeek content later this week.
For more ideas on how to celebrate Computer Science Education in your classroom, go here.