Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hopscotch App

I'm a little behind with a few of my blog posts.  I intended on posting this one prior to the new year.  But, here we are in 2014, and I am talking about the Hour of Code.  So if you can just look past the Santa hats strewn across the room, it would make me feel better.

Last month for the Hour of Code, Mrs. Kassie Hanger's second grade students used the Hopscotch app on their classroom iPads.  There was an easy-to-follow tutorial provided for the #HourofCode, and I used part of the video to introduce the app to several students.

Hopscotch, a free iOS app, is a perfect starting block for teaching the basic concepts behind coding and backend development, while at the same time getting students excited about using tech from a developer's perspective.  As an introduction to coding, I always talk about video game, website, animated cartoons, and app development (at a lower level) to make the concept of coding more tangible.

While playing with Hopscotch in second grade, I found that several students demonstrated a knack with the program, and all the students instantly began to display excitement, engagement, and motivation to learn this new skill.  One student in particular seemed to find this program extremely engaging, and he was somewhat of a natural at linking the drag-and-drop command blocks.  When he would discover a new set of instructions that made his character(s) do something cool, his fellow classmates begged him to share his coding blocks.

This spurred a series of impromptu challenges provided by students within class that day.  To say the least, students were buzzing with excitement.  The experience cultivated a small passion for using the Hopscotch app and some of that excitement/passion must have spilled into the evening.

Parent Praise 

The next day, one particular student's mother called the school and asked his classroom teacher about coding and why her son was so excited about it.  Apparently, this student told his mom that he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, which was a coder.  His mother was pleased to see her son excited about school and who can blame her.  Whenever a son/daughter can come home and start the conversation about school without being asked to share what they learned, it's an exciting day for parents.
"[Student's Name] told me all about Mr. Gibson coming and talking to him at school today about coding.  First, I just want to thank you for allowing him to come in and teach him!  Second, please pass along to Mr. Gibson how grateful we are that he is showing an interest in [Student's Name] and helping him learn more about coding.  He is so excited about it.  We have already downloaded the book on our iPad and he is reading it now!

Again, thanks so much!  We really are so thankful for you [Mrs. Hanger]!!:)"
Now, will he maintain this interest in coding all the way through to adulthood, probably not. Nevertheless, at least he knows what coding is, and as a second grader that allows for many years of playing around with coding concepts and computer science.   And maybe it will allow him to figure out exactly what he wants to do.  I always wanted to work with computer animation and video gaming industry.  When I made it to college, there weren't many options for this career pathway.

Thoughts for Hopscotch

Not too long ago, I found Dr. Wesley Fryer's free eBook with Hopscotch Challenges from one of his social media shares.  And I have to say, I want to have these students try some of Fryer's challenges, but I would also like to encourage students to create their own challenges for his classmates.

Now, if I was Hopscotch, I would create a Hopscotch forum and/or video section to allow users to upload challenges without going into too much detail about their code initially.   How can this game become more social?  Students had fun time working through their personalized challenges with their friends.  I think this excitement can be sustained through a social-media-type site for apps like Hopscotch.

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