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The Hour of Code: 4 Ways to Introduce Programming to the Classroom

Written by Jacob Moffitt | Find me on: LinkedIn

The Hour of Code is BIG news right now in the world of classroom technology. Across the nation, people are setting up computers in their classrooms and teaching a few lines of JavaScript or Python with the help of tools from the programming community. These events are all-ages (you're just as likely to see an Hour of Code in a community college continuing education classroom as you area an elementary school), they're fast, and they're fun to do.

But where to start? If you're looking at using coding as a means of facilitating collaboration in the classroom, and you know absolutely nothing about coding, how can you expect to teach?

Don't panic. The tools are out there, and they're designed by people who understand that you aren't a master programmer. In this blog, we'll start going more in-depth into the tools available to your classroom, and in our followup piece, we'll speak more about how to approach the subject.



Code.org is the official website of the Hour of Code, and it contains an incredible amount of resources to help you bring programming into your lessons. Subjects range from esoteric concepts in coding, such as if/then and conditional statements, to more  specific hands-on experiences, such as beginner classes in programming languages like JavaScript.

The best part? These exercises are often pre-built, meaning less work for the educator to teach them, and are often themed in fun ways. We've featured a few on our Twitter feed over the last couple of weeks, and it's very suprising how often you'll run across interesting themed Hour of Code classes.



...Minecraft! Your students will dig it!


Star Wars! Use the "for"s!


How about Frozen? Tell your students to input a program and LET IT GOOOOoooo!

Code.org is filled with a lot more themed tutorials like this, and all of them have increasingly difficult objectives. Most of the included are just "teaching" basic instructions to your program, but with a little bit of persistence, eventually your students will be collaborating on increasingly complex programs, such as making a program to pathfind through a maze, or to recognize and apple from an orange (and refuse one over the other.)


 Okay, so maybe you teach a class that's a little beyond Frozen or Minecraft as an avenue to learn coding. (I'm leaving out Star Wars, because it makes children out of all of us) Or you started with some of the simpler code lessons, but you'd like to continue and begin actually teaching a coding language to your classes. That's where CodeAcademy comes in.

CodeAcademy was designed as a way to teach code to those who might not want to necessarily take classes, or coders who might need to brush up on one language or another. Classes are provided both by CodeAcademy and by CodeAcademy users, since all the information needed to construct a course is available to anyone willing to construct one


As a result, the website functions excellently as a collaborative learning tool. Code is entered on the left side, and the end result of running that code appears on the right. Students work their way up from simple lines of code (as shown above) to longer, more complex programs, such as making a "choose your own adventure" game. This can come in handy when coding together, as a classroom, as you, the teacher, can be the one entering and running input, while students submit lines of code in order to make the program run.

Alternately, start with the easier lessons as a group, then move to the harder lessons. With wireless presentation and moderator control, you can help one student at the same time you help all your students, by informing them about common mistakes, or working through lines as a class to elminate syntax errors. The Hour of Code is a collaborative event, after all, and a team working together to find mistakes can often do so more effectively than individuals.

Khan Academy

So you've started with simple excercises, moved up into more specific language-related tasks, but you're looking for a return to the esoteric, the conceptual. Much like Picasso, you're looking to take a step backwards in order to make a huge leap forward. If you're teaching teenagers or college students, simple language based exercises don't always provide much of a challenge. Coding is pretty easy to learn, in the beginning, and it might take a little more beef to really get your students thinking.

Khan Academy is an education non-profit aimed at bringing higher education concepts to those without access to higher education, but it also functions great as an accelerated learning tool when you're ready to get into more serious concepts. If you're a teacher, taking a Khan Academy course in computer science is a great way to acquaint yourself with how coding works, especially if you're new to it yourself, and it's a great resource to point your students to when they're ready to ask more serious questions.


As you can see, there's some pretty heavy-duty concepts covered here, such as programming algorithms or learning about cryptography, but these are the basics of what makes really complex programs work. If you're looking to brush up on these concepts yourself, so you aren't totally blind as to what your students might be working towards, this is an excellent resource for teachers. The self-paced learning and built-in quizzes also allow you to send students who are extremely interested in coding to a place where they can build on their conceptual skills.


Coursera is an excellent tool for learning just about anything, and that includes beginner, intermediate, and expert level classes in computer science. Coursera is another free education non-profit, this one aimed at bringing classes from the best universities on the planet home to you. MIT, Yale, and many other highly respected schools have made their coursework and lectures available either for free, or for a nominal fee.

As a teaching resource, this is an excellent place to start. Coursera's Computer Science 101 course is an excellent place for anyone to start if they're complete beginners at computing and programming, and the best part is that Stanford University has given their coursework over to Coursera to be used, by anyone, for free. If you aren't incredibly skilled at computers, or feel like you need a refresher in the basic concepts, Coursera offers education for whatever level you might require it, and it also makes another great resource to send students to when they're in need of more challenging work.


Time to Get Coding!

The only thing stopping your classroom from collaborating on an Hour of Code event is the lack of education on how to teach it. We feel like these four resources will give you the leg up you need to start challenging your students to think like programmers.

We also feel like the wIPG-2000 is currently the best mode of wireless collaboration available for your classroom, and we're looking to prove it. We'd like to work with you or a number of your students in showcasing the power of BYOD collaborative classrooms. If you're interested in finding out what we can do for your classroom, please don't hesitate to email us, Tweet us, or send us a message on Facebook concerning an Hour of Code event. We feel like switching between devices on the fly whilst teaching students to code on their own machines is one of the best uses of technology in the classroom, and with the upgrades we've made this last year, both on the firmware of the device itself, as well as the MIrrorOp software, all come together to make wePresent a total package

Stay tuned for more exciting news regarding development of the wePresent product line. We're planning a very exciting 2016, and we're happy you're a part of it.

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Topics: Smart Classrooms , BYOD , Interactive classrooms , Interactive learning , Classroom technology , collaboration , hour of code , coding

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