Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hour of Code follow-up

I'm an avid supporter of coding and getting girls into STEM-related careers. However, I support it with a twist. 

While I support the activities that are specifically created for Hour of Code and I love the enthusiasm surrounding this week, it should not just be a week. In some cases, it's similar to jumping on the bandwagon. Many have joined in support of coding, but do not know why and do not have the infrastructure in place to continue it. 

Therefore, I think the focus should shift to sustaining interest. Hour of Code is awesome at generating interest, but how do we sustain interest? In working with elementary students the past few years, I gained insight into the STEM shift that occurs between elementary and middle school. In elementary, I had over half of my robotics members represented by girls. There was a focus on problem-based learning and the approach to STEM was different. It was not just "taking notes" as a 12-year old girl mentioned to me. Instead, it was collaborative and it appealed more to ALL students. 

However, in middle school, a shift in school happens and STEM becomes an area that is not as conducive to ALL learners. This is not a slam on STEM programs, but merely an observation. 

So, I ask, how can we lessen that shift? How can we still keep kids interested (not just girls) during that gap between elementary and middle school? 

And, secondly, what are the reasons to keeping kids in STEM? I have my own reasons, but what are yours? Why is it important for students to be able to code?

Before starting the Hour of Code, I think it is an important question to ask yourself - why do you students need to code? There is no perfect answer, but every person should have their opinion. 

With that in mind - our programs (Warrior Tech and Girls Who Code) focused on mentorship. Mentorship is our reason to get others into coding. 

Yesterday, several of our high school students went to a high-need elementary school and helped classrooms with several of the featured hour of code activities. When young students able to see where coding could take them (through the various high school students), there was purpose. 

Today, the clubs hosted an informal event in the library for students in all levels of computer science - from beginner to advanced. The goal was to gain exposure and give students that entry point (that is scary to many students). 

We hope to continue to reflect on the whys - why should we encourage coding, computer science, and STEM?

One of our high school students helping fifth graders get started with HOC activities. 

 Another group of high school students helping a very excited group of second graders. 

 Second grade students at their best - collaboration and teaching others. 

Our main feature high school event - an informal space for students to come and learn code from our students. 


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