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Coding in the Classroom

A UTCS Outreach Program

Coding in the Classroom is a recent outreach initiative of UTCS, in which members of the UTCS community (students, faculty, alumni, and friends) go out into the local schools and teach a coding. Coding in the Classroom currently features two main activities: Hour of Code and Classroom Programs. In pursuing these activities, we introduce computer science to a diverse group of students and we build community amongst ourselves.

Hour of Code

Hour of Code is an initiative led by the non-profit Code.org to encourage non-programmers to spend an hour programming. The Hour of Code lessons are available all year, but the focus of the initiative is to get people to participate during Computer Science Education Week, which is in early December. The idea is to expose people to programming so they will have some understanding of what computer scientist is and may eventually choose that career path---or encourage others to do so. Since December 2015, UT Computer Science department has facilitated the Hour of Code initiative at local grade schools. The UTCS community---undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends---worked together to either lead the grade-school students through the Hour of Code lesson or to provide support to their teachers as they did so. In exchange for our help, we request that teachers allow each volunteer to introduce themselves and tell why they chose computer science and then why they stayed in computer sciences---our field is large and varied, and we are here for many different reasons. In doing so, we hope to expose the students to the diversity within our field.

How is it going?
In 2015, approximately 100 volunteers helped expose over 2,300 students to programming at 10 different Austin-area schools, grades Pre-K-12. That year, we volunteered over 200 hours in local classrooms. In 2016, we expanded our initiative and approximately 150 volunteers helped expose over 2,800 students to programming at 10 different Austin-area schools. In the 2016 effort, we volunteered almost 350 hours in local classrooms. Participating schools included: Perez Elementary, Sunset Valley Elementary, Hemphill Elementary, Manor Middle, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin Achieve, Ann Richards' School for Young Women Leaders, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy (LASA), and our very own UT Austin students (a subset, of course!).

Classroom Programs

Our classroom programs are designed to introduce students to coding in 6-8 weeks. Working in teams of approximately five, we travel to a local school for an hour each week, and we introduce coding through hands-on activities. We also strive to inspire the students through open-ended projects that capture their imaginations. For most of our programs, we are using LEGO Mindstorms or Kano Kits. You can check out our curricula page for more information. In addition to teaching coding, we introduce the idea of computer science and how its concepts can be used to change the world.

How is it going?
We are currently running or facilitating seven classroom programs at six schools: All told, these programs, which are led by approximately 45 UTCS student mentors, are reaching approximately 230 K-12 students this school year.

While it is too early to measure long-term results, our mentors report that the programs are going well and the students seem interested. We have found that programs that take place during the school day in the classroom (as opposed to an afterschool coding club) are more successful.

Want your school to be involved?

Please send email to Alison N. Norman (ans@cs.utexas.edu) and let her know that you are interested.

Want to volunteer with us?

Volunteer opportunities are sent out over our outreach email list. Please send email to Alison N. Norman (ans@cs.utexas.edu) to get subscribed. Please include the email address at which you would like to receive messages, and please know that you will need to pass a background check with Austin Partners in Education.

Many Thanks!

The clubs at Sunset Valley Elementary (4th and 5th grades) and TSBVI (afterschool) received funding and support from Google's igniteCS program.

TSBVI also received funding and support from an AccessComputing minigrant from the DO-IT program at the University of Washington and from Keller Williams Realty.

We are in the process of beginning a seventh classroom program at Maplewood Elementary, which is in partnership with HomeAway.