The Hour of Code is a national movement aimed at teaching students about computer science. Designed and implemented by the nonprofit Code.org, the Hour of Code is a 1-hour curriculum designed to show students of all ages that computer coding is accessible and even fun! The ultimate goal is to promote technology education in hopes that some students will go on to pursue computer programming in high school, college, and beyond. So far 59 million students worldwide have tried the Hour of Code.
Code.org describes their mission this way: “Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.”
Maya Crosby, the Lincoln Academy Technology Coordinator, who also teaches Digital Media and Computer Science Principles says, “LA participates in the Hour of Code as part of Computer Science Education week, because it’s an accessible way to introduce every student to the concepts of computer science – problem solving, computational thinking and the language of code. It’s also a great way for students to teach each other: students in computer science class visit the math classes and lead their peers in the Hour of Code. As one of the student leaders said, ‘They were actually excited – they asked me questions!’”
More than half of the LA student body will have the opportunity to try out the Hour of Code in math classes during the weeks of December 8 and December 15. During the designated hour, students create an account on the Code.org website, and follow a series of simple steps to write code that solves a problem, for example, getting a squirrel to run through a maze. When students are done coding and press the “run” button, they can see their program accomplish its task. This is exciting, even when the task is small.
“In most of my classes the first 10 minutes is all complaining,” says math teacher Susan Levesque, who runs the Hour of Code in each of her math classes. “Some kids were groaning about how they would rather take 30 minutes of geometry notes than do this. But by the end, even the kids who aren’t very tech-savvy were surprised by how fun and easy it was to write this code. Even the most negative were really into it, saying, ‘hey, I beat the zombies!’”
How did LA students feel about this year’s Hour of Code? “I liked it,” said senior Taylor Oliver. You had to think about which way to do things, which way to turn. It took a lot of thought, and it was fun. I learned something!”
“I learned how many steps it takes to do even really simple things,” said senior Jordan Metz. “You think that some programs are simple, but they are actually very complicated. Still, I could do it.”
“I really learned how to code!” said LA junior Heather Benner, “Actually that game was really fun.”
LA student coders are in powerful company. President Obama participated in the Hour of Code this week, donning a Code.org baseball cap, running his squirrel through the maze, and becoming the first US President to write a line of computer code. His participation emphasizes at a national level the educational importance of computer science.
The Hour of Code is a short, simple exercise, completed in a single class period. Can it actually make a difference in students’ interest in computer programming? There is evidence right at Lincoln Academy that it does just that.
“I had never done any programming before last year’s Hour of Code,” says junior Alex Organ, a member of the Tech Team and Computer Science Principles class. “Until the Hour of Code I didn’t really understand what coding was or how to do it. After last year I went on [through the Code.org website and other sites such as Khan Academy] to do more programming on my own, and I wrote an app. It wasn’t a complicated app, but it was an app! Now I am taking Ms. Crosby’s computer science class, and learning even more about code.” Will Alex go on to study computer science in college? “probably in some way.”
Senior Ed Frankonis finished his coding exercise fairly quickly, since it was his second time through. “It’s still pretty wizardly in my mind,” he commented, “but I can sort of see how this might work. When I write something, I can make something happen, which is sort of the principle of code. Since last year I started doing some code in Civilization, a computer game I play. The game has a ‘mod’ option, and I had never tried modifying the game until I did the Hour of Code last year. Now I know how to do that.”