Hour of Code 2017

Planning and work for the Hour of Code 2017 started a while ago. As anything you do at a school level, the more you plan, the more you plan for success. A little history: our first attempt at the Hour of Code was in 2016. It was at the ‘beginning’ of our revolution at St. Mary’s of coding, robotics and integration of the digital world into the classrooms. So back in 2016, we decided to just run it for Grades 4 & 5. We primarily ran Swift Playgrounds, with some Scratch going on for students who could not run Swift Playgrounds on their iPads due to the age of their iPads. It was by all reports (not trying to blow my own trumpet!), a huge success. We set the students up for success; we ran Swift Playground workshops for 3 or 4 library sessions before this, allowing the students to explore and get used to the platform. On the actual day, we invited parents/caregivers and many of them took the opportunity to come in and see what it was all about.

Not satisfied with this, I wanted more! So after the dust settled, I started thinking about 2017 and how to top this. My plan was to include all of Elementary this year. So from RP (Kindergarten) through to Grade 5, every student would code in that week SOMEHOW.

Through the year I worked using Beebots & Probots with the lower grades. In the middle grades I worked with Spheros & Probots. For the upper grades in Elementary I used Spheros and EV3’s (LEGO). This was done in class as an integration moment, or after school as a planned after-school ‘club’. This would ensure a couple things. Apart from the obvious benefits of integrating robotics/coding into the curriculum, I would have students throughout the year groups that would be my ‘experts’.




My rough plan for the activities were:

RP & Grade 1

  1. Beebots
  2. Probots
  3. Lightbot (computer)
  4. Beebot (app on iPad)
  5. BlueBot (app on iPad)
  6. Kodable (app on iPad)

These two grades (RP & Grade 1) have worked with me in integrating some form of robotics/coding into Math. We have extensively used their knowledge of 2D shapes and they have used this in their coding of the various robots. So their challenge here for the practical element of coding was creating as many regular and irregular 2D shapes as they could in the time allotted (10 to 15 mins).

The iPad and computer challenges were built in the app, so all the students needed to do was to complete the various challenges in the app to see how far they could get in the set amount of time.

Grade 2

  1. Beebots
  2. Probots
  3. Spheros (some students used these during after-school activities and they would be invited to use and show what they know)
  4. Scratch Jnr (iPads)
  5. Kodable (iPads)
  6. Codespark (iPads)
  7. Classic Maze (Computer)

For Grade 2, I setup mazes for the students to complete mazes, for the Spheros and the Probots/Beebots. I felt it was a ‘good’ idea here to allow the students to create their own using blocks of wood. MISTAKE! They spent more time building the maze than coding the robots, quick intervention was needed, and the activity quickly changed.

Grade 3 & 4

  1. Spheros (some students used these during after-school activities and they would be invited to use and show what they know)
  2. Probots
  3. EV3’s
  4. Kodable (iPads)
  5. Scratch Jnr (iPads)
  6. Lightbot (iPads)
  7. Minecraft (code.org – students able to code in Minecraft)

Grade 5

  1. All robots available (Beebots, Probots, Spheros and EV3’s)
  2. Swift Playgrounds (iPads)
  3. SpriteBox (iPads)
  4. Scratch (Computer)

What I hope is apparent from this plan, is for a continuum of learning to take place across the grades. As a steady progression of skill development, I feel it is important to note that in our Elementary, we are still at the beginning of our journey for coding/robotics, etc. I have always felt skill development is important in Elementary, while the coder in me wants the students to learn C++, Java, Swift (Xcode), and the like, which would be very ambitious in any Elementary setting. But what is important here, is the SKILL. Developing this can be expanded on in later years (Middle and/or High School). Just as learning a language, knowing the ‘code’ is only half the skill of a good coder/programmer, the other half is the thought process that goes in the code. So just knowing all the words in a language does not mean you are able to write a good story!

For me, learning these skills is the basics, just as learning the basic sentence structure, verb – noun agreements are important in language development. Thinking like a coder, being able to look at problems and sequentially breaking them down into their basic components is just as important.

Where to from here…..

For next year, I have envisaged incorporating our Middle school into Hour of Code (somehow!). Knowing our school, I know this will be problematic from the timetable differences through to a difference in their and our approach to this. That being said, it’s worth the challenge!