Computer Science Week, the first full week of December, is an exciting time of the year. Why? Because I get to expose more and more young people to computer coding and computer science concepts through the Hour of Code. And every year, I’m re-energized by seeing their eyes light up after they animate their name or complete a lesson in code.org.
For #HourOfCode2017 we introduced nearly 300 young people in the Atlanta neighborhoods of Chosewood Park and Peoplestown. Volunteers worked with students at Frederick Wilson Benteen Elementary School (Benteen ES) and Barack & Michelle Obama Academy (BaMOA) in completing their coding projects. Students in 3rd and 4th grades had to construct lines of code using blocks using the ‘Play Ball’ lesson from code.org. 5th Graders set up their own Scratch accounts and animated their names. After the last session on Friday, I wished we had more than just an hour a year to explore this new skill with these bright and inquisitive minds.
The #HourOfCode is an important part of what we do to give back and expand the reach of coding to young people in some of our most challenged communities. Coding is a skill that if nurtured could last these young people well into adulthood and open doors to new opportunities.
This Hour Of Code I had some great hands and minds helping me. Mrs. Annette Richardson, my mother and a retired Dekalb County Schools administrator; Mr. Kenneth Mason, State of Georgia Board of Education District 5 Representative; Ms. Lisa Fey, Speaker and retired Coca-Cola sales and marketing executive; Ms. Andaiye Reeves, Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library; and Mr. Rick Laupus, Peoplestown Community Advocate were an integral part of the learning and fun. The school staff, especially Ms. Lorraine Foushee at BaMOA and Ms. Aiesha Khan and Benteen ES, really rocked it to a new level. I’m so proud we’ve been at BaMOA since 2014 and Benteen since 2016. I can’t thank our volunteers and the staff at the schools enough for making this one better than the year before.
The primary lesson I learned is that more can be done but no singular organization (or individual for that matter) can do it alone. #HourofCode is a step on a long and interesting journey. So who’s up for bringing coding to your school, after school program, a summer program, a library, church, or any location near you? Contact me to start the conversation and begin building alliances to teach 10,000 young people how to code.
We can make this happen for Metro Atlanta’s young people.
William Teasley, Nerd Ninja Sensei
As we kick off Computer Science week, I am reminded about the importance of young people, especially from challenged backgrounds, learning computer science concepts. Computer coding, design thinking, and 21st century skills can dramatically influence their future trajectories.
Everyone can code, even though everyone is not a coder, it is a skill that old and young can master. You don’t have to be a coder to code - coding is a skill that the old and young can master.
The keyboard is accessible to everyone and if you can leverage those skills - you can have impact far beyond yourself. I use games, animations, and modding as a playground approach to computer science and 21st century concepts, enabling young people to learn without a formal curriculum or structure.
Project based learning is a tool that works well in after-school programs where we can introduce concepts in a fun and less high stakes environment. I often have to reassure after school program directors that they are indeed learning when they can hear them laughing, moving around, sitting on the floor (or under a table), and talking during our sessions. The approach is messy and at times noisy. Learning should be engaging, fun, constant, and occurs, more often than not, in real world application of concepts. We start with “You Can…” and go from there.
This year Nerd Ninjaz will be returning for the 4th year of Hour of Code to Barack and Michelle Obama Academy and the 2nd year at Benteen Elementary School. We’ve logged over 1,800 hours of 2nd-4th graders learning computer science concepts and 5th graders creating a game/animation during their Hour of Code. This year we will add 500 more hours to that number. If you want to help, please feel free to reach out to William Teasley (the Nerd Ninja Sensei) for more information on how to get involved.
Stay tuned. We’ll be sharing video, pics, and a blog post from an educator next week!
Nerd Ninja Sensei
A blog for those working to refine the college access pipeline, create more opportunities to nurture future change agents, and mitigate the gaps.