NPR aired a really interesting story from All Tech Considered this morning while I was driving to school, and it reminded me that I had a post about Hour of Code that I had been putting off writing about because I feel like I failed so miserably at the whole thing. You can find the NPR story here.
The NPR story is about the lack of computer science classes in our public schools and the seeming lack of connection between the drive for STEM and the overlooking of computer science. Here’s a really interesting infographic pushing for the inclusion of computer science. Until fairly recently, I would not have been the type of educator to say that our students are missing something when it comes to computer education. But when I went to grad school, I realized how woefully little I knew about computers and what I can do with them, and I’m pretty much a tech native, with a lot of the basic know-how I need, and all of the ability to find help I might need. As I thought about my own ignorance, I realized how shockingly little my students really did know. I mean, I had a student tell me once they didn’t know what the back button on the browser window was. I have students now who don’t understand what Chrome vs Firefox vs Explorer means.
No, these examples are not computer science. (That misconception is addressed in the article, too. A principal is dreadfully wrong about what computer science actually is.) But imagine how much less I would have to be concerned about things like that if we start addressing understanding the “behind the scenes” of computers at younger ages.
Anyway, all of this reminded me about Hour of Code and my lame attempt to get something started with it at my school. I really can’t think of a nice way to say that I failed. Nothing happened and no teachers wanted to partake. I got started late and didn’t have enough to give them to make it seem awesome.
I am sure they thought things to themselves like “I can’t possibly fit this in,” “I don’t see how this is aligned to CCSS,” and “That’s not my area.” I can’t blame them. I didn’t do what I should have done.
But at a school/system where computer science isn’t even offered (I don’t think it is anyway… I know it’s not required), how do I begin to get entry-level support for something? What could I have done differently than to just announce that it’s a thing I’d like to do and does anyone want to work with me?
I think I probably could have gone ahead and made lesson plans for an Hour of Code activity in a classroom and gone to a specific teacher to show them and ask if they want to be involved or give it a go. I probably could also have had a brief presentation ready to give at a staff meeting or in department meetings ahead of time. I will admit that I waited until the last minute to get started on trying to make Hour of Code happen in my school.
One thing I’m definitely not sure how I could have done differently is dealing with teachers thinking they can’t fit things like this in. My school serves mostly low-performing, low-level students in a Title I setting. And our test scores reflect that. I can’t blame teachers for thinking that if only 8% of their students passed the Common Core Math 1 exam last semester, then they’ve really got to focus on basics. Coding doesn’t really fall under basics. There’s no proof that a couple of lessons on coding will help them figure out how to find the slope.
Doing a school wide coding activity is something I would want to do as my Media Center becomes a Learning Commons. I need ideas for how to embed that into our school culture.