Our Favorite #HourOfCode Resources

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Last year we shared our favorite resources for participating in the #HourOfCode, which is part of Computer Science Education Week. A wealth of resources are available, so it's easier than ever for teachers and students of all ages to commit an hour of their time to coding. And here'sthe best part: it's so much fun!

Give #CSEdWeek and the #HourOfCode a try. It doesn't matter if this is your first stab at coding or if you're just learning to read. You might love Star Wars, princesses, emotions, or Angry Birds; or you might not even have a computer. No matter what, there’s a tutorial, game, or guide for you.

Searching the Internet can fill an additional hour as you explore the array of resources. To make that process more efficient, we'll guide you toward some of our favorites for 2015.

Here are our favorite resources to use during your #HourOfCode Click To Tweet

Elementary School

  • The FoosUse animated blocks of character actions (character walking, jumping etc) to move your character through a series of game-like puzzles. This one is great for early readers because there is very, very little to read.
  • Star WarsUse drag-drop blocks to move BB-8, the new droid in the upcoming Stars Wars film, through a series of puzzles. The activity ends in creating your own game with characters you can easily share with friends and family.
  • MinecraftIn this new activity from Code.org, you guide Steve or Alex through a series of puzzles in a Minecraft world. The activity also ends in an open world for you to create your own experience.
  • Frozen. A favorite from 2014, this game from Code.org enables kids to ice skate in patterns, using blocks to write code (while they still learn that text code is occurring “under the hood”) and ultimately sharing their product with friends and their social network.
  • Scratch Jr. From the creators of Scratch, the Scratch Jr. programming interface is specially designed for young coders, ages 5-7. Follow these instructions for engaging young students in the Hour Of Code.
  • Kodable. With the tag line “learn to code before you can read,” Kodable offers resources and modules, including classroom plans to teach children how to code. Kodable is free for classrooms with 25 or fewer students.
  • Pencil Code. In this open studio, students create their own drawings with a simple drag-and-drop coding interface.
  • Made with Code. Google's Made with Code projects provide students with step-by-step instructions to start coding. New in 2015 is a an activity with Disney's Inside Out theme; it's great for older students.
  • Robot Dance or Mirror Images. Use these "unplugged" activities to get young students thinking like computer scientists regardless of access to technology.

Middle School

  • Star Wars. New to Code.org in 2015, the Star Wars activity offers block-based, drag-and-drop programming for beginners. If your middle schooler is ready to go beyond blocks, the Star Wars code studio also has an activity in which the blocks are actual JavaScript code. The ability to move to JavaScript is great for experienced students.
  • Angry Birds + Plants vs. Zombies. Popular in 2014's #HourOfCode, this self-paced activity provides all the instruction students need to take a crack at coding. With short modules and engaging challenges, students will walk away empowered to learn more!
  • Scratch. The Scratch Ed team at Harvard's School of Education developed three simple tutorials that guide students as they make an interactive holiday card, animate their name, or create a Pong-style game.
  • Hopscotch. Using the free iOS app, these Hopscotch activities help students create their own games.
  • Unplugged. No access to technology? No problem. The folks at CSEdWeek.org created these unplugged activities just for you!

High School

  • Star Wars. As described above, this year the Code.org Star Wars activity features a JavaScript drag-and-drop interface (in addition to the blocks) that's great for students with coding experience.
  • Khan Academy. Khan Academy has added great resources for the Hour of Code. Get started with JavaScript, HTML/CSS, or SQL.
  • MIT App Inventor. A free programming interface from MIT, these four lesson plan ideas allow students to create their own Andriod apps, an extremely relevant and exciting facet of computer science.
  • TouchDevelop. The team at TouchDevelop offers a great introductory video with a breakdown of what code is and all the things that depend on it. Several tutorials help children learn coding in various environments. Excellent supporting materials will help you plan lessons for the Hour of Code.
  • Best Technology. With this "unplugged" activity, students discuss and debate the more influential technological inventions of the past 30 years.
  • Codecademy. Challenge your students to move beyond the visual, block-based programming languages. This #hourofcode lesson from Codecademy uses a step-by-step approach to introduce students to the JavaScript programming language.

All Ages

  • Flappy Code. Create the popular game Flappy Bird in about 10 minutes. Check out this tutorial.
  • Play Studio. This activity provides a natural progression from the introductory lessons, offering more challenging concepts (e.g., conditional logic) and creating more sophisticated programs.

Looking to go beyond an hour?

  • Courses from Code.org. For grades K-5, these self-paced, interactive lessons are filled with video tutorials and helpful feedback. Specifically designed for early readers, Course 1 uses images, not text, to guide students through activities.
  • Khan Academy. Explore a series of courses on topics ranging from HTML to SQL.
  • Google's CS First. These downloadable, free curricula provide materials for facilitating computer science clubs. The focus is on showing the applications of CS (e.g., music or fashion and design) and providing a supportive group environment for learning how to code. Setting up a club is a great way to go beyond the Hour Of Code.
  • Hopscotch. With seven, 45-minute activities and lesson-plan materials, Hopscotch (a free iOS app) provides a wonderful resource for integrating coding into your curriculum.
  • Codecademy. With over 24 million registered learners, Codeacademy provides a wide range of  resources and tutorials for learning to code.
  • Robots! There are a lot of robots with programming interfaces. Read this post for more. Try Tickle for an app that has a block programming interface for all sorts of robots.

Don't forget Computer Science can be integrated across the curriculum. So if you teach art, music, or physical education, be sure to check out this post to bring the #HourOfCode to your classroom.

Coding is fun, and it’s the basic language on which all computer science knowledge can be built. We hope that taking part in the Hour of Code will shine a light on a skill and a capability students didn’t know they had.

There’s a growing recognition that computer science is a vital field of study (although one that, we feel, is still undervalued, but that's another topic for posts here and here). And many, many resources teach coding, the basic building blocks of computer science. While coding is simply a starting point, a solid understanding of how to code teaches kids how to think (to paraphrase Steve Jobs) and enables the deeper study of computer science.

Let us know what resources you’re planning to use, and please share this post with other teachers to encourage them to try the Hour of Code.

 

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About Author

Scott McQuiggan

Scott McQuiggan leads SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an interdisciplinary team focused on the development of no-cost educational software in the core disciplines at SAS. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2009, where his research focused on affective reasoning in intelligent game-based learning environments. His research has been published in more than 30 journal articles and refereed conference proceedings, and been recognized through several best paper nominations including Best Student Paper Award at the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction.

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