Hour of Code and Beyond

Submitted by Carol Yarbrough, A+ College Ready’s Computer Science Specialist

During the first week of December over 600 Alabama teachers and thousands of K-12 students celebrated Computer Science Education Week by participating in the Hour of Code.  This has become a yearly event for many Alabama schools.  Every student in my school has taken part in the Hour of Code for the last several years.  It is always a fun event for the students and teachers alike.  Students write computer code to solve puzzles, create art and make games.  They can do all of this in one class period, but many of them enjoy it so much that they go home and code some more.  Every year students who have never taken computer science classes tell me how much they enjoy the event and would like to take a computer science course.

With the conclusion of the Hour of Code, now is a great time to reflect on how far Alabama has come in computer science education.  When I became a high school computer science teacher, there were only a handful of schools in the state that were teaching computer science.   Now, nine years later, we have over 75 teachers offering computer science at a high school level.   This is primarily due to schools offering the new AP Computer Science Principles course.  AP CS Principles is a wonderful course that gives students a chance to learn about many aspects of computer science, including Big Data, the Internet and implementing algorithms in a programming language, all with a strong focus on creativity.  Over the last couple of weekends, A+ College Ready offered Student Study Sessions to every AP CS Principles student in the state to help prepare them for success in the first offering of the AP CS Principles exam in May of 2017.  Students were engaged in activities focused on algorithms, innovations and navigating a “robot” through a grid.

We have come a long way, especially at the high school level, but we are just beginning our journey.  Leaders in higher education, industry, and K-12 education are working to bring Computer Science education to all Alabama students from kindergarten to 12th grade.   It is truly an exciting time for computer science education.  Alabama is making great progress towards offering the opportunity to learn basic, foundational 21st-century skills to all of our students.  It’s great to see more students in Alabama going beyond the Hour of Code and learning computer science.

Carol Yarbrough is a high school Computer Science teacher at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. She decided to become an educator due to her desire to “do something that matters.”