Hour of Code Mirrors Student-Centered Culture

This December 5 through 9, in what has become an annual event, Shore students in all grades participated in the Hour of Code, a worldwide initiative to encourage young people to explore computer coding in all its forms. According to Code.org, the non-profit that created the Hour of Code, the vision that fuels the event is "that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science."

Like millions of their peers in schools around the world—Code.org says more than 300 million have participated—Shore students and their teachers dedicated a full hour to learning, experimenting, and playing via the educational apps hosted at Code.org. Supported by the likes of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, the site offers fun, engaging experiences appropriate for all ages, and everyone from the youngest Pre-Kindergartner to the most experienced eighth or ninth grader found a tutorial that was just their speed. A visitor stopping into classrooms during the Hour of Code might have seen students and their teachers learning the basics of algorithms, sequences, loops, and conditionals on Box Island; building a Star Wars galaxy using JavaScript; mastering the Scratch programming language to animate their own name; or solving block-programming puzzles with Elsa and Anna in the world of Frozen.

Yet, perhaps more obvious to an observer than the coding and the games were the real-life learning journeys they seemed to spark. As it turns out, a Shore classroom full of children tackling a coding challenge looks a lot like the Shore classrooms our teachers strive to nurture every day.

At the start of the Hour of Code, students were given a few general guidelines, but were then set free to browse dozens of available tutorials and programming styles to find one that appealed. This is not unlike any other day at Shore: faculty members take pains to create opportunities for students to choose their own path, and to devise their own solution to challenges which may be academic, artistic, athletic, or social.

Having chosen their path, student coders frequently came up against obstacles almost immediately; early frustration was evident for all grade levels as young learners tried to decipher the rules of a new, code-based universe, or master the tricky controls of a programming game. Again, the resemblance to an ordinary day at Shore was evident. Teachers here are known for encouraging children to take risks in their learning and allowing them, sometimes, to be frustrated and even to fail at a given challenge. Shore's method values failure just as much as success: it is those initial failures that build intellectual and emotional resilience, and enable students to pick themselves up with a new and improved approach to a problem.

So, faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Shore's coders did what they had already learned to do at school: take responsibility for their own learning, and enlist their peers to collaborate on a way out. Just as in the course of an ordinary day, one of the most satisfying moments teachers witnessed during the Hour of Code was surely when two students huddled together over an iPad or Chromebook, both pointing at the screen and typing or mousing simultaneously, and then looked to each other, their eyes wide, as they arrived the same solution together. This scene repeated itself over and over in every Shore classroom, as students joined forces and shared their knowledge to conquer almost any coding challenge.

For a visitor, it was just as satisfying to see teachers themselves dive into one of the tutorials and experience the same journey as their students. Many a teacher could be seen puzzling over a screenful of jumbled instructions and then, after recruiting one of their students for help, raising their arms in victory. Just as often, teachers looked on in admiration and wonder as their students discovered a hidden way around a problem, or assembled code that did something hilariously unexpected.

For many students around the world, the moments of self-guided discovery, collaboration, and triumph sparked by the Hour of Code may well be out of the ordinary during the school day. At Shore, however, we are fortunate that nothing could seem more ordinary. Our adventurous, student-centered culture is tailor-made to inspire children and adults to creatively tackle challenges together every day.
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    • Working together in Grade 1

    • Building a Start Wars universe with JavaScript

    • Making progress in Kindergarten

    • Coding on an iPad in Grade 3

    • A comfortable spot for Grade 4

    • A breakthrough in Grade 7

    • A Grade 5 triumph!