Hour of CodeSource: Computer Science Education Week

I love Hour of Code. I've gone every year that Apple has hosted it. And it keeps getting better every year.

That's thanks to the new apps and app updates, like Swift Playgrounds, new course material, like Everyone Can Code: Puzzles and Everyone Can Create, and even new devices like the 10.2-inch iPad.

Sure, these platforms and tools are used all year long in many schools. But Hour of Code is a special opportunity every year to catch the attention of schools who haven't looked at the importance of code literacy, or kids who have been hesitant to give it a try.

This year I went to the Computer Science Education Week at Artscape Daniels Launchpad in Toronto. There, grade 5 and 6 students from 3 public schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) we're in attendance: St. John XXIII, Our Lady of Lourdes, and St. Dunstan.

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It was run by Hackergal founder and executive director, Lucy Ho, and special developer guests — Toronto's own Snowman.

I love that local developer guests are included. It makes everything seem more real and also more attainable. And since Snowman makes games, it's also very relatable and inspiring for the children. It's something almost every one of them has dropped of doing.

Hour of codeSource: Computer Science Education Week

Hackergal runs workshops using Everyone Can Code and Swift Playgrounds on iPad, and Xcode on Mac all the time throughout the year. When I asked why Apple and Apple technologies, instead of Chromebooks and the like, Lucy explained that the experience for the children, being able to use a friendly and intuitive device, with software that gets out of their way and doesn't keep getting in their way, just leads to better results. And Lucy's team was incredibly good at engaging with the children. They played a few games to get started, then dove right into Swift Playgrounds.

Each child got a lot of attention from the group. No one seemed shy or intimidated. They all knew how to use iPads already. And the Swift Playgrounds format was just incredibly natural to use.

I wasn't able to stay for the afternoon session, but I got a preview of it. And I loved it. Using Keynote and Apple's App Design Journal on iPad, the children had to think of a problem that they wanted to solve in their daily life, and then come up with a simple app that could help them accomplish it. It was very similar to Apple's Prototyping sessions at WWDC, or the new one at Today at Apple.

Hour of CodeSource: Computer Science Education Week

Children who are more artistically inclined could work in storyboards. The ones who like to code the best could figure out logic flows. I really wish I could've stayed. Not just to watch. But to try it out. Apple deserves huge credit for just how much they're investing in education, right down to the curriculum.

It's easier than ever to get access to a computer device, but without a step-by-step methodology, it's still hit and miss how much you actually get out of it. Not just for students but for teachers and parents as well.

This gives them that.

All 29 Apple Stores in Canada offer free coding sessions year-round. Canadians can sign up at www.apple.com/ca/today. If you, your child, your neighbor, anyone you know has any interest in code at all, you should absolutely check them out.

Also, pro-tip for if you're traveling over the holidays: Apple Stores also all do photo walks. So, if you end up in a new city and want a free and educational tour of the local surroundings, find the closest Apple Store and sign right up.

Personally, I can't wait for next year.

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