Sneak Peek: Hour of Code at Hawaii's public schools


More public and charter schools are jumping in with student coding exercises for this year's Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8-14. Here's a sneak peek at what six of our schools are up to.

​​​​​​​​Above: 2014 Hour of Code kickoff video at Mililani Uka Elementary, which features scenes from last year's event.

Last year there was great excitement around Hour of Code among our schools, which were just beginning to take on some of the challenges and opportunities associated with learning, teaching and integrating computer science at different grade levels.

Hour of Code is held during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 8-14 — a global movement to spark interest in and passion for coding in schools and beyond. (More than 40 Hawaii public and charter schools are participating in Hour of Code. View full Hawaii list here.)

Why all the interest? As Michelle Colte, who with coding club teacher Rachel Armstrong is once again coordinating efforts at Hale Kula Elementary for its Hour of Code event, put it:

"We want to create awareness to the importance of coding. Coding is a new literacy. Our society relies on computer programming and we need qualified programmers to fill positions. There aren't enough U.S. graduates to fill these positions, so many foreign work visas go to programmers.

We also want students to explore coding as means to convey their learning. Some students excel at art, sports, music, math — we found students across all grade levels who excelled at coding. They loved and completed all the tutorials within 1-2 days.

Students learn to persevere through coding — to solve problems, to figure out how to make something happen. It empowers them."

This year, more Hawaii schools are jumping in, providing training and prepping exercises for the kids. Here's how the teachers, tech coordinators and principals are getting their students in on the coding action.

Momilani students engaged in coding at last year's event.

What will the kids be doing?

Hale Kula, Michelle Colte: K-1 students will use Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur apps on iPads, grades 2-5 will complete the tutorials, and grades 4-5 will help their kindergarten buddies with

Lokelani El, Angela Falk: The kids will be doing small lessons via to experience coding. Last year they had an Angry Bird character they had to get to the Pig. They initially gave instructions with "go forward" and "turn right". They then added "Repeat" blocks and "If/Then" Blocks.

Momilani El, Shane Asselstine: We will be incorporating Minecraft and the ComputerCraftEdu in which students will program turtles to complete challenges ranging from horizontal movement to interacting. Depending on grade level, students will be sequencing, debugging, working with conditionals and/or doing LUA programming.

​(Editor's note: Asselstine's work appeared in a new book, "Minecraft in the Classroom." View here.​)

Pearl City Highlands El, Janice Lee: All students will participate in an Hour of Code December 8-12 during their weekly library visit. We'll have an Angry Birds tutorial, and students who finish early can build their own game with Tynker or make a holiday greeting card with Scratch. (Photo, below right: A 5th grader at Hale Kula coding in Scratch.)

Pu'u Kukui El, Debi Tisdell: For our youngest, we are introducing students to sequencing and conditionals by using the Kodable app on the iPads — they'll work in pairs to construct directions that move a character through a maze. In grades 2 and 3 our students have been working with Scratch Jr. to create multi-part, multi-character stories, involving drag-and-drop blocks to control the movement, appearance, and interaction of various characters. Older students in grades 3-5 use the free courses available at Students practice "pair programming" to solve and troubleshoot a variety of puzzles. The puzzles from are engaging for our students and carefully scaffold their understanding and ability to write "drag and drop" programs. As the puzzles get progressively more challenging, the students look for patterns and develop plans for solving the puzzles.

How are the teachers prepping for the event?

Hale Kula El, Jan Iwase: Many of our teachers attended a workshop on Nov. 23 to learn from a trainer, and our tech team is assisting teachers who want to know and do more in their classrooms prior to the Hour of Code week, walking through resources available at:

Momilani El, Shane Asselstine: We will be providing an opportunity for teachers to train on activities and lessons prior to implementing them into the classrooms, with a trainer. The school will be providing informational flyers and posters to the classrooms as well as posting links and related articles on the eNewsletter. Scheduling the lessons so they do not overlap, will allow for extra help during the Hour of Code week.

Pu'u Kukui El, Debi Tisdell: One of our technology goals this year is to expand our computer curriculum to include programming for students in grades K-5. So this year, all students in grades K-5 will spend approximately 10 weeks focusing on programming. While their teachers are meeting with our curriculum coordinator in Professional Learning Communities, students will be in the computer lab working on developing the skills and stamina that they need in order to be successful with beginning programming. To do this we are using a combination of iPads, desktops, apps and online resources.

What interest level are you hearing from students about computer science and coding in the classroom?

Hale Kula El, Michelle Colte: We have a Coding Club made up of fifth graders who meet monthly. The club has been using Scratch to remix, troubleshoot and create their own code. They've also been doing some unplugged activities.

Lokelani El, Angela Falk: I do the Computer Curriculum in my elective class — the characters are interesting to the students and the drag-and-drop animation keeps it simple for them. It also helps them work on problem solving skills — breaking up a problem into parts and finding solutions.

Mililani Uka El, Principal Heather Wilhelm: Our students are eager to enter their second year of the Hour of Code. Last year, our entire student population successfully completed one hour of coding (and more!) along with millions of other students across the United States. Students in Kindergarten, first, and second grade learned the basics of computer programming with Kodable for iPad. Our third, fourth and fifth graders completed many of the coding lessons available on Our students were so excited and enthusiastic that our technology teacher, Bao Nguyen, continued to teach computer programming throughout the year. We've already started the buzz for Year Two around campus with a blog and a kickoff video on our website. (See video with Nguyen, above.)

Pearl City Highlands El, Janice Lee: Sixth graders have "Genius Hour" projects and some of them have chosen to learn coding — making an app, experimenting with Makey Makey. Also, a fifth grade math class is considering building physical models of a city, as well as digital models in Minecraft. We are also planning to start a Minecraft club afterschool.

Pu'u Kukui El, Debi Tisdell: This is the first year we have worked with programming and it has been exciting to watch the kids at work and listen to their discussions as they persevere in the problem-solving and troubleshooting necessary to solve the puzzles. Moving forward, our next steps will include exploring other programming platforms like Scratch and Tynker, and we’re confident that the work the kids are doing this year will help build a foundation for moving into working with robotics.

A Hale Kula 5th grader writes code for Thinkersmith's unplugged activity "My Robotic Friends"
— coding exercises don't always require a computer.

Will students be 1:1 for the Hour of Code, or teaming up on devices to collaborate on projects?

Hale Kula El, Michelle Colte: 1:1 isn't really necessary because students are able to rotate through learning stations, share devices and access coding tutorials from home. Any school can start integrating tutorials — even with a few desktops in the classroom. All students will have access to devices in the library or tech lab.

Lokelani El, Angela Falk: I'm taking my math class to the sixth grade computer lab, so they'll be 1:1 — each will have access to a desktop computer. They'll be next to each other for peer guidance if they need it.

Pearl City Highlands El, Janice Lee: We have laptop carts that the classrooms share, as well as some Chromebooks in the classrooms.

Pu'u Kukui El, Debi Tisdell: During the "Hour of Code" week we'll be using our morning closed-circuit broadcast to share highlights from the work students are doing in the computer lab. Students will be coming to our computer lab throughout the week to participate in coding activities.

What are your goals for students with this exercise?

Hale Kula El, Jan Iwase: Although this will be an introduction for many of our students (having a transient military-impacted community means that many of this year's students were not here last year for our Hour of Code weekly events), we hope that students will be motivated to continue their coding activities during their free time at school or at home. Last year during the Hour of Code week, we had so many students accessing the site via our school's library web page. This indicated that they were excited to continue with the coding activities. (View a video produced by Hale Kula students about the value of computer science for the 'Olelo Youth XChange video competition.)

Lokelani El, Angela Falk: My goal is to expose them to computer programming and coding. They will see the basics of it and not be intimidated when they encounter it more formally in the future. Also, if they enjoy it, they can choose to take more classes, and maybe someday write apps, make lots of money and come back to Lokelani and surprise their old teacher, Miss Falk, with a huge, expensive gift. :-) ... Or maybe just a card saying thank you.

Momilani El, Shane Asselstine: We are looking to spark an interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and coding definitely falls into that category. Coding affects everything around us from video games to rocket science and it is important that students are aware of just how far reaching these skills can go. Exposing the students to the various career options available within the realm of computer science and programming is another key component of this coding push. Of course, the skills embedded in many of the activities, such as sequencing and debugging, can help students with critical thinking and problem solving.

Pearl City Highlands El, Janice Lee: Introduce students to coding, let them have fun with it. I hope students will see the importance of coding and begin to imagine the things they could do if they learn to code. If students are interested in learning more, we will explore ways to extend their learning — after school?

Teachers Rebecca Linford, Rachel Armstrong, and Megan Cummings with 4th and 5th grade Blended Learning students who participated in the Hour of Code at Hale Kula last year.

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Phone: 808-586-3232



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