Having Fun with Microsoft MakeCode for Computer Science Education Week 

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This year, Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) falls from December 5th – 11th, 2022 and during this week K-12 students across the United States (sometimes even younger!) will engage in fun and hands-on introductions to coding using resources like Hour of Code.  CSEdweek serves as chance to inspire students, advocate for equity, and celebrate the work of educators and students exploring Computer Science in creative and compelling ways. In advance of CSEdWeek 2022, I had the opportunity to interview Kiki Prottsman, the Director of Education at Microsoft MakeCode and hear her thoughts on Computer Science education, gender equity in computing, and more. Check out highlights from our interview below for tips and resources for using MakeCode during – and beyond – CSEdWeek this year    

Amanda: Can you tell us a little bit about what Microsoft MakeCode is? 

Kiki: Microsoft MakeCode is a free, easy to use, code editor that allows you to switch between blocks and text (JavaScript or Python) as you code projects.  We have three major areas we service: Minecraft, micro:bit, and our own product, MakeCode Arcade!        

Amanda: What age or skill level are the resources on Microsoft MakeCode generally targeted toward? 

Kiki: Historically, we looked to middle school and high school with MakeCode Arcade and elementary for micro:bit, but our Arcade activities have been trending younger and younger, thanks to nationwide movements in the classroom.    

Amanda: Wow – it sounds like MakeCode is really covering the entire K-12 space! What are some ways people can use MakeCode during the 2022 Computer Science Education Week 

Kiki: Of course, we’ve created our own Hour of Code activities using MakeCode Arcade, but we’re proud of what we have to offer year-round.  For starters, we’ve just completed a tutorial based on Marvel’s Wakanda Forever and we’re working toward our first out-of-school curriculum called “Code a Carnival”. Even beyond this, most of our skill maps found at arcade.makecode.com are beginner friendly. 

Amanda: I love that MakeCode is creating resources to engage students with coding year-round, not just once a year during CSEdWeek!  

I have just one more question for you, related to equity in Computer Science. Women currently make up around 26% of Computer and Mathematical Scientists (see: NGCP State of Girls and Women in STEM). Do you have any thoughts on how we can use educational coding resources, like MakeCode, to help bridge the gender divide and increase female representation in Computer Science?

Kiki: In my personal opinion, the best way to bridge the equity gap is to avoid treating STEM subjects like super-serious, infallible gargoyles of education and instead allow more time for exploring them through play.  Our school systems are intimidating students right out the door, and the only people who confidently stand their ground are the ones who have the history or support system to guide them through.  It’s ridiculous.  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are just as expressive, creative, and fun as art, music, and dance…unfortunately, that approach isn’t historically supported.  
More individuality of technique and playful tone would go a long way.  That’s what we strive to bring to MakeCode.  The ability to explore, play, make, and experiment with tools that can be used for everything from music and art to data collection and robotics.    

Amanda: I couldn’t agree with you more! I am really excited to dive into the fun and playful resources you are creating at MakeCode. Are there any other last thoughts you would like to share? 

Kiki: For the teachers out there, if you’ve ever even entertained the idea of trying a coding activity in your class, make this the year!  Your students will learn a lot and have a blast, if you go at it with the mindset that: 

  • You don’t need to be the expert, just the lead-learner 

  • Kids should be encouraged to experiment and try things with…and against…what the instructions are trying to tell them 

  • It’s the process, not the end product that builds a better coder   

Amanda: Thank you so much for sharing all these tips and resources, Kiki! Anyone who is interested in learning more from you should be sure to join us for our upcoming NGCP National Webinar “Enjoy Computer Science Education Week with Microsoft MakeCode on December 6th, 2022 at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern.  

Helpful Links and Resources: 

Kiki Prottsman - woman with long, dark hair wearing a green shirt in front of a blank background

Kiki Prottsman

Kiki is Director of Education at Microsoft MakeCode, as well as the author of several books, including Computational Thinking and Coding for Every Student, My First Coding Book, and Disney’s Coding with Anna and Elsa.  In her spare time, Kiki runs an educational YouTube channel called KIKIvsIT, which helped her win one of Stevie’s coveted Female Innovator of the Year Awards.

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda is a Senior Program Developer at NGCP where she manages the NGCP’s National Webinar Series. She is passionate about breaking gender stereotypes and providing all children with equal access and opportunities to succeed within (and beyond) STEM from an early age. 

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