Students take part in Hour of Code

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High School students, above, Bullis Charter School students, and Los Altos School District students all participated in Hour of Code activities at their schools last week to mark Computer Science Education Week.

Local students of all ages buried their heads in laptops and tablets last week as they learned the basics of computer coding during The Hour of Code, a national education event celebrating Computer Science Education Week.

The Hour of Code is designed to show K-12 students the importance of computer science and to prove that regardless of age, race or gender, anyone can learn how to build the technologies of the future, not just consume them.

According to national statistics, 90 percent of U.S. schools do not teach computer science; fewer students are learning how computers work than a decade ago; and girls and minorities are severely underrepresented. Yet technology is increasingly shaping nearly every aspect of life.

At Los Altos High School, 1,750 students spent at least one hour during the week learning computer science in their math classes. They participated in online tutorials featuring Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and the Angry Birds computer game.

“There are so many jobs out there that include coding,” said Jeanne Yu, mathematics and computer science teacher at Los Altos High. “These exercises show students that it is actually fun and quite possible to do. This is one way to show students that computer science is very accessible.”

Los Altos High didn’t stop at just one hour. Approximately 150 students participated in an after-school coding event designed to expose them to additional activities and challenges and to engage their curiosity in taking computer science courses.

“These activities encourage students to think about computer science more and serve to connect students with other students who are interested in coding,” said Danielle Paige, Los Altos High science teacher. “There is a lot that can be done with coding.”

Students were given the challenge of working to design an application that runs an analog clock and were entered in a contest to win a Nexus Tablet.

Los Altos High currently offers an AP Computer Science class and an Introduction to Computer Science class. Teachers expect that Hour of Code activities will boost interest in those courses.

Students in the lower grades also benefited from The Hour of Code. K-8 students at Bullis Charter School used programs such as Adobe JavaScript and Tynker, and some participated in offline activities to practice fundamental coding skills. Computer science is part of the charter school’s curriculum via its project-based learning units and cocurricular classes. Students use platforms like Scratch programming, Google SketchUp and LEGO Robotics in the curriculum.

With additional funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation, Los Altos School District students of all age groups are taking a first stab at computer science this year.

District kindergartners manipulated robotic Bee-Bots, which they program to move. First- and second-graders used an app featuring Daisy the Dinosaur to learn the basics of programming. Third- through fifth-graders tried Scratch programming, and sixth-graders reflected on the importance of computer science while working on Hour of Code activities online. Seventh- and eighth-graders took part in lunchtime coding opportunities.

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Hour of Code at Los Altos High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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