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How Mr. Chen taught his kids to code – and how you can, too

When Mr. Chen got an email from us introducing an online curriculum that teaches K-8 students to code, he knew his eighth graders needed to try it.
“It just makes sense for a physics teacher like me to teach some programming,” Mr. Chen explained, “since that’s what scientists do. Instead of running an expensive experiment over and over, they use programming to run a simulation. So teaching students how to code is going to help them in the future.”
Mr. Chen’s headmasters agreed, and just before winter break he started incorporating the curriculum into his regular instruction. In those hazy days before the start of vacation, Mr. Chen found not only his own students but those from colleagues’ classes wandering in to get started. All together Mr. Chen has 72 students signed up on Code.org, and 27 have already completed the whole 20-hour curriculum.
“It turns out the students LOVE the Code.org curriculum and will sit and program for hours,” Mr. Chen reported. He even has kids who opted to keep working through the puzzles over their winter vacations.
When his students had questions, the Code.org teacher platform allowed Mr. Chen to navigate exactly to the stage and puzzle where a student was stuck and see a screen shot of that student’s work. He was then able to send a student his own screen shot of suggested next steps, blurring out the details where he wanted a student to think through the solution on her own.
“If teachers have questions, they can easily talk to someone with a computer background or use Code.org’s teacher forum,” Mr. Chen added.
The most important thing according to Mr. Chen is that teachers take advantage of this awesome curriculum and help their students work through the twenty hours. At the end, Chen feels, students have “the motivation to pursue things they never thought they could do, such as become a programmer.”
Since last month, more than 20 million students have learned an Hour of Code from Code.org — a one-hour computer science activity that features popular games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. The K-8 course Mr. Chen completed with his students builds on the first hour for kids to keep learning. So far over 10,000 teachers have already begun teaching this free online computer science course, reaching over 500,000 students. By comparison, computer science was previously taught in less than 13,000 classrooms total, reaching fewer than 250,000 students
Sounds pretty good. Oh, and did we mention that teachers like Mr. Chen who lead 15 or more students successfully through Code.org’s curriculum can earn $1,000 in DonorsChoose.org gift codes for their classrooms?
“The students know about the $1,000 gift code, and I told them since it’s their money, they get to decide how to spend it,” Mr. Chen laughed.
The students settled on a 3D printer, so that they can continue to develop their programming and engineering skills.
We’re so excited that so many of our DonorsChoose.org teachers like Mr. Chen are engaged in the Code.org curriculum! Participating teachers can visit the Code.org teacher forum or contact us with any questions.
If you’re not already teaching with Code.org, sign up or learn more.

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