Coding Can Be a Gift to Struggling Students. Let’s Give It to Them.

Dec 02, 2019

I don’t remember the exact date I fell head over heels in love with coding, but I vividly remember the precise moment. I was in a Kindergarten classroom, co-teaching with a very brave and incredibly open-minded teacher, when I looked across the room to see a 5-year-old boy standing, feet spread, arms flung wide as the biggest smile you can imagine graced his face. His eyes simultaneously reflected both surprise and the euphoria of sweet victory. As I wandered over to inquire, his eyes met mine, and he practically shouted, “I did it” while throwing up a fist bump.

He had been stuck on one particular Code.org puzzle (there might have been an angry bird and a pig involved), and after following a logical process of step-by-step analysis, he had found the bug in his code, resolved it and directed that temperamental bird to cross the board and connect with the elusive pig. It was, in one encapsulated moment, a perfect Kindergarten victory.

In every classroom where I’ve given kids the chance to dig into coding, the students who shine are those who struggle at almost everything else

Kids succeed all the time. We celebrate those successes, but what made this one so impactful was that this particular kid rarely found success—at anything. He seriously struggled with sight words. He regularly fidgeted during math. He was easily frustrated with regular classroom rules and expectations. But coding? That was his jam.

At school, I preach the “Gospel of Code” to anyone who will listen. I believe in the power of thinking differently, of giving kids opportunities to stretch their brains beyond what they believe they are capable of—and if it comes with a side of gaming? I can live with that.

Coding gives kids a chance to be creative, to collaborate, to think critically and to communicate their thoughts to others. Not only that but there’s the potential for them to develop a bit of grit, to dig deep to find their own stores of perseverance and to learn to appreciate the value of struggle. Over time, they figure out how to think out of the box, realize the wisdom in considering multiple solutions to the same problem and come to understand that more than one mind working together is an awe-inspiring and powerful thing.

In every classroom where I’ve given kids the chance to dig into coding, the students who shine are those who struggle at almost everything else. They very often thrive. They step into a leadership role, offering peer coaching to classmates who usually run circles around them. It is incredible to see a girl gain confidence through coding, to see the power of her own problem solving, and to be a leader among her peers—both male and female.

As you can tell, I’m all in on coding, but I know that not everyone feels like they can jump in with both feet something that feels so completely foreign, so far beyond our comfort zone that it seems like we’ll need a parachute to survive the attempt.

But that’s where Code.org’s Hour of Code steps in as a lifeline. In their words: No. Experience. Needed.

For real.

During Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15), Code.org challenges everyone to participate in just one Hour of Code. To support that end, they’ve amassed a wide array of tutorials and activities—both device-focused and unplugged—in 45 different languages. There’s literally something for everyone.

Don’t worry—there’s no need to worry about where parentheses or quotation marks go or hours spent learning a computer programming language. Code.org simplifies the entire process with block-based code: colorful graphical blocks that represent lines of code and function with drag and drop technology. Drag one block to connect with the next block and press run. It is seriously that simple.

Check out the How To Guide to take you through every step of the process, and if you need a visual take a peek at these kids celebrating an Hour of Code.

Of course, the biggest part of the celebration is during Computer Science Education Week, but if that doesn’t work for your schedule, Code.org doesn’t care. Just jump in when you can.

Hour of Code isn’t a trendy flash in the pan. Check out these stats:

  • Since 2013, 835,198,455 hours of computer science instruction have been logged as part of the Hour of Code.
  • Hour of Code participants come from more than 180 unique countries.
  • So far this year, 41,306 events have been registered.

I get it. It can be tough to take a risk. You’ve never written a line of code in your life, and now I’m challenging you to teach computer science? It is scary to stand in front of a room full of kids and venture into unknown territory. But I promise you, there is serious power in answering a curious kid’s question with a genuine, “I don’t know… let’s figure that out together.” That simple statement demonstrates lifelong learning, growth mindset and humility.

Who knows? The person who solves the greatest issues of our time might just be sitting in your classroom. And you might have just gently reminded them to stop picking their nose.

P.S. When you take that risk (and I’m genuinely hoping you will), tag me on Twitter and #HourofCode, and we’ll celebrate together.


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