‘Star Wars,’ ‘Minecraft’ Tutorials Help Teachers Offer Hour of Code Event News2america

Before they see the new “Star Wars” movie, high schoolers can join forces with Princess Leia to build a game during the Hour of Code this week.

The global event aims to expose students to computer science and coding basics.

“The purpose of it is to demystify computer science and coding and show that all students – no matter their background, age, race, gender – can understand and appreciate coding and computer science,” says Pat Yongpradit, chief academic officer of Code.org.

But high school teachers don’t need to have any technology skills, pay any fees or even have computers to participate – they just need to spend an hour allowing students to explore coding basics through student-directed or teacher-led activities that can be found on Code.org.

Participating in the Hour of Code might inspire a teen to pursue a career in computer science, which is a growing field – computer and mathematical occupations are expected to grow 18 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

High school teachers should consider the following information when planning their first Hour of Code.

1. The Hour of Code can teach itself. At Code.org, teachers can find dozens of tutorials for students to complete during their Hour of Code, says Yongpradit, a former high school computer science teacher.  

Some tutorials use blocks to teach the basics of coding to beginners and others that use the JavaScript programming language for more experienced students, he says. In the tutorials, teens might play a game, make an app or create a holiday card.

Teachers can also connect with volunteers on the website if they need more assistance.

Twitter users shared their tips for a successful event below.

2. There are activities related to nearly every subject area. Teachers could select tutorials for their students to complete that fit within their subject area, including some of the following.

• Students can create an app through Vizwik that allows them to collect information by asking others to vote, which might work in a social studies class. 

• In the Scratch Dance, Dance, Dance activity, participants learn how to code in an animated dance scene, which might fit within an arts class. Music teachers might want to try the following:

There are even “Star Wars” and “Minecraft”-themed tutorials, which Yongpradit recommends for teens new to coding to start with, along with tutorials from the educational site Khan Academy

But teachers shouldn’t feel like they need to assign a tutorial or masterfully weave the Hour of Code into a lesson for it to be meaningful, says Yongpradit.

He recommends teachers pause instruction for a day, showcase some examples and then let students run with it – have them pick tutorials that interest them or work in pairs. Having fun with it is part of the purpose, he says.

And then at some point, high school teachers can talk about how it is relevant to their subject, he says.

3. Coding skills are not necessary: The Hour of Code is supposed to be interdisciplinary and show how coding is relevant for all different subjects, says Yongpradit. High school teachers don’t need to have any prior coding skills – or even a computer – to host an event.

But high school teachers should plan out their tech needs in advance, he says. Many tutorials on Code.org are Web-based, but there some activities that can be completed with paper and pencil. 

Or, teens could use their smartphones.

Inspiring students – and teachers – to get excited about computer science is one of the main goals of the event, Yongpradit says.

“I would just want all high school teachers to feel like they play a role in this, even if they are not even STEM-related.”

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