Computer science is often top of mind for 21st-century educators, but this week, you’ll likely hear more about it than ever before.
From Dec. 4-10, teachers and students across the globe will celebrate Computer Science Education Week. Many classrooms are expected to participate in an Hour of Code, during which students spend at least one hour working on a coding activity.
With Hour of Code activities ranging from “Pre-reader” level and beyond, students can do anything from create their own Google logo to their own game.
Microsoft, which has made big strides in CS education this year by creating Code Builder in “Minecraft: Education Edition,” has also released a new Hour of Code tutorial called “Minecraft: Hero’s Journey.”
Students can complete the 12 challenges and then import their code into the game to bring their work to life.
“Though many don’t realize it, coding is in fact one of the most creative activities a student can do, building something with no limitations but his or her own creativity,” writes Deirdre Quarnstrom, general manager of Minecraft Education, in a Microsoft blog.
Libraries will also be stepping up this year to offer more support to computer science education. Thanks to $500,000 in grant money from Google, libraries across the nation will be able to offer more educational opportunities for students.
American Libraries magazine reports that libraries will use Computer Science Education Week to give students even more opportunities to take advantage of the Hour of Code and other CS activities. The American Library Association, which puts out the magazine, plans to use the week to determine which coding programs have been successful at libraries and what support is still needed.
Go Beyond an Hour or Even a Week for Computer Science Education
While this week and the Hour of Code are great ways to spark awareness, educators should also look for long-term ways to keep computer science in their classrooms.
In an Education Week blog, experts note that while Hour of Code activities are great for building momentum, educators should look to foster a broader knowledge of computational thinking and problem solving. While reading and writing code is a great way to teach this, teachers can also focus on the underlying thought process.
“… students don’t need to be future computer science majors to benefit from computational thinking skills. Solving puzzles, splitting up large problems into small ones, getting stuck and then figuring out how to get unstuck, will help future designers, writers, artists and makers just as much as our future engineers.”
Computer science should not be relegated to just one week per year, either. Educator Steven W. Anderson writes on EdTech that choosing Hour of Code projects that can be continued throughout the year is a great way to allow students to continue to explore their skills. He cites MIT App Inventor as a great tool for letting students step outside their initial activity.
“Students could look around their community for a problem to solve and use the app building to conceive a solution,” Anderson writes.