We all know it's important to incorporate technology into the 21st century classroom, and this series gives you tips on some of the most exciting, easy-to-use technology tools available so you can focus on what matters. Today we'll look at Code.org, an initiative designed to support STEM teachers by offering tutorials and programs to teach computer coding in the classroom.
The Case for Code
In 2013, 20 million students took part in Code.org's Hour of Code™ initiative, and the site wants to get even more educators involved in 2014. The idea is to expose students to coding basics used for computer programming in order to create more interest in computer science from an early age. The initiative was started in part to address the scarcity of qualified computer programmers in the industry, as well as to bring a more diverse crop of new coders into a predominately male field. By partnering with STEM teachers, Code.org hopes to provide practical, real-world skills via video tutorials and generate interest in computer science education across the country.
Nuts and Bolts: How to Incorporate an Hour of Code™ in Your STEM Class
Code.org's tutorials work on traditional computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices. The site also offers advice on how to facilitate collaborative "pair programming" if you don't have enough devices for every one of your students. Don't have a computer lab or a brand new set of fancy tablets? Don't worry; there are a number of "unplugged" activities available so you can begin teaching the critical skills necessary for coding with a few very basic low-tech supplies. For example, students can draw instructions with arrows for classmates who play the role of a robot and "program" them to complete a task like stacking plastic cups.
Depending on student interest, you may decide to start regularly incorporating coding lessons in your overall STEM plan. Learning to code can help students develop key critical thinking skills as well as a passion for the sciences, and more organizations are cropping up to support young people interested in learning code. You can find a list of great resources in the "Beyond One Hour" section of the site. (Some of them are free, while others require a subscription fee.) You might also encourage interested students to start a "coding club" for extra credit in your STEM course. Code.org offers plenty of ideas for how to continue to build interest in students of all ages.
Bringing coding into the STEM classroom can be a great way to diversify an already strong middle or high school STEM program. In addition, coding can help engage students who prefer more independent, self-directed activities over the traditionally group-driven work of science labs. Coding can be a fun, profitable way to make a living, and giving students a chance to play and experiment can be the first step on that path.