Hour of Code 2016 is rapidly approaching. This year, Computer Science Education Week will be celebrated from December 5-11. With this in mind, many teachers are planning in class activities that will help engage students and foster a love of skills needed for the future. Hour of Code has become such an international educational phenomenon that many free resources have spawned. For those who want to incorporate coding as part of their classroom lesson but feel overwhelmed by the topic, the Hour of Code website is the perfect resource.
Anyone who has experience with the 7 to 14-year-old set, both boys and girls, knows that Minecraft is basically life. Minecraft has been used by teachers and parents to engage children in engineering at a younger age. With pedagogical research focusing on the importance of Minecraft to STEM teaching , educators are increasingly aligning their classrooms to incorporate the game. Therefore, Hour of Code matches perfectly with the Minecraft movement making for an engaging and educational experience for everyone.
Enter Microsoft. Microsoft has partnered with Minecraft to create two Hour of Code events focusing entirely on the sandbox phenomenon. The first one teaches kids to program animals and other creatures in a personalized Minecraft demo world. The second uses code to walk Alex or Steve on an adventure. In addition, for teachers who may not have access to the internet in their classrooms, Microsoft has a downloadable version for Windows users. Moreover, the downloads for offline use come in both English and Spanish which are a boost for ELL students. By doing this, Microsoft is helping to engage those students who are often left out of educational opportunities due to a language gap. While this does not account for all students with a language gap, specifically Asian students, it does try to address some of the issues that plague classroom teachers when trying to engage diverse classrooms.
For teachers not confident in their own computing skills who may want to shy away from teaching computer science, Microsoft recognizes the reluctance. With those teachers in mind, Microsoft has downloadable lesson plans to help organize a Minecraft Hour of Code class. The teacher resources incorporate pre-planning activities. If a teacher has never done an Hour of Code event, Microsoft has that covered, too. With its “Best Practices” document and it’s “How-to-Guide,” the resources enable even a newbie to the event to be successful. Moreover, with its extension activities, a teacher can turn an Hour of Code into a few days of code.
With the rise of technology jobs and the constant push for STEM and STEAM, teachers can give students a boost by engaging them with the Hour of Code events. While many teachers may feel pressed for time in order to meet Common Core objectives for their classroom, remembering that code has a basis in math and algebra as well as application of math concepts remains important. Bringing in the Hour of Code activities not only align perfectly with the Common Core math objectives at any age, but they may be a fundamental moment for future computer engineers.