Beyond an Hour: Let’s Continue Coding!

Mr. Murphy and I are proud to share that every Fox Hill student in grades 1 through 5 participated in the Hour of Code from December 12th through the 23rd. During those two weeks, Fox Hill teachers brought their classes to the Learning Commons and students were given a brief overview of the hourofcode.org website. They were shown how to filter hour of code activities based on grade level, device type, level of coding experience, and content area. After this quick tutorial, students were able to select an activity of their choice and begin coding. Some of the top choices included Disney’s Moana, Star Wars, Minecraft, Code Spark Academy, and our littlest coders in the first grade loved Light Bot and Kodable! To say students were engaged in learning the basics of computer programming is an understatement! When Mr. Norman’s 5th graders completed their hour of code, the day before the holiday vacation, they were so engaged you could here a pin drop in his classroom! We were pleased to see many students earn their Hour of Code certificates and we’re hoping that the coding will continue; both at Fox Hill as a classroom center, as well as at home for those students who have access to a device. The video below showcases many of the students who completed the Hour of Code and earned their Hour of Code certificates.

Coding with Sphero

In addition to the “traditional” Hour of Code, Fox Hill students had the opportunity to use the Lightning Lab iPad app to program the Sphero robot. Mr. Murphy and I worked with the third and fourth graders at Fox Hill and helped them learn the basics of programming a Sphero. After showing students how to activate, aim, and drive their robots, students in Mrs. Nolte’s fourth grade class were challenged to program their Sphero’s to outline various shapes that we had taped to the floor. This challenging, yet fun experience, required students to consider the speed, distance and angle of their Sphero. Beyond the basic commands, students experimented with changing the color of the Sphero and making it jump and speak. After programming the Sphero, many students wanted to know how much they cost and where they could buy one. Many students told us they would be asking their parents to buy them one as a holiday gift. It is safe to say that students enjoyed learning how to program using a Sphero! The video below highlights the students in Mrs. Nolte’s math class using the Sphero.

How to Bring the Hour of Code Home

As the parent of a fourth grader, I am mindful of how much time my child spends on a device, however not all screen time is created equal. I had my daughter complete the Moana Hour of Code (was so excited she completed all 19 levels independently!) and I am encouraging her to continue to explore computer science through the same iPad applications we are recommending to Fox Hill students. In addition to the activities offered on the hour of code website, the App Store offers a variety of free coding apps for children to try at home. If you are the parent of a student in grades 1-5, and want your child to continue coding at home, we recommend the following iPad apps:

Lightbot Hour
Scratch Jr.
Lighting Lab (requires a Sphero, Ollie, or BB-8; find more information about these products here)
Hopscotch
Tynker
Daisy The Dinosaur
The Foos
Cargo-Bot
Kodable
Bee-Bot
Box Island
Swift Playgrounds (designed by Apple and used by many professional computer programmers)

Mr. Murphy and I can almost guarantee that your child will find at least one coding app or activity that will spark their interest in computer science and will develop their computational and critical thinking skills. Learning these skills at the elementary level will give students a huge advantage. Computer science and technology related jobs are expected to have higher than average growth over other career fields and offer high paying salaries. Check out the current top 10 computer science related jobs and the U.S. Department of Labor for even more details about computer science occupations. And remember to continue coding!

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