To most of us who aren’t computer scientists, programming seems like a daunting prospect. We know that our computers, tablets, and phones could not function without vast quantities of code, but we couldn’t write that code ourselves – we couldn’t even make sense of it if we read it.
With the continuing ascendancy of computer technology in every aspect of life, however, our children’s generation should be more computer literate than we are if they hope to understand the world in which they live. Moreover, for many of them, code will be a necessary career skill – software development represents roughly a million American jobs right now, and it’s projected to grow more than 20% by 2022.
The non-profit organization Code.org is working to increase the computer literacy of the next generation and to help the public in general learn more about computer science and how programs work. During the week of December 8-12, the organization will be putting on Computer Science Education Week, a nationwide initiative to get schoolchildren excited about computer science.
As a key component of this initiative, Code.org is challenging students to complete an “Hour of Code” during that week. The Hour of Code is any of several one-hour activities designed to introduce students to basic coding principles. The activities are provided free for anyone’s use by Code.org. The organization also makes longer courses available for free to interested students, and for teachers who want to bring computer science into their classrooms, it provides guidelines and resources for incorporating Hour of Code modules into a lesson. And of course, children don’t have to be at school to do Hour of Code – since the modules are self-guided, students can also play with them at home.
Code.org offers a range of activities and courses. Some are designed for children as young as kindergarten; others are more complex, allowing students to write a simple flash game. The most touted Hour of Code module this year is a collaboration with Disney Interactive featuring Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa, who skate around an animated video box to draw snowflakes and other designs based on the code input by the student. Like all introductory Code.org offerings, the Frozen module provides step-by-step guidance. It also uses a highly simplified programming language and gives inputs for the lines of code as drop-down menu options, so that students never actually type out lines of code on their own. These interventions make it possible for students to experiment with the fundamentals of how code works without getting bogged down in the syntactic errors that are inevitable for first-time users of mainstream programming languages.
Last year, during the first annual Hour of Code, a handful of Houston private and public schools participated. This year, many more have decided to host Hour of Code events.
The following HISD schools have registered to participate in Hour of Code: A.A. Milne Elementary, Austin High School, BCMA Ryan Middle, Briargrove Elementary, Burbank Middle, Coop Elementary, Crespo Elementary, Deady Middle School, Dowling Middle School, Fonville Middle, the Gabriela Mistal Center for Early Childhood Education, Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet, Hamilton Middle, Helms Elementary, Herrera Elementary School, Henderson Elementary, Horn Academy, the Houston Academy for International Studies, Johnston Middle School, Lanier Middle, Lyons Elementary, Kolter Elementary, the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion School, McGowen Elementary, Moreno Elementary, Neff Elementary, Parker Elementary, Pugh Elementary, R.P. Harris Elementary, Red Elementary, Seguin Elementary, Smith Elementary, River Oaks Elementary, Scarborough Elementary, School at St. George Place, Scroggins Elementary, Sinclair Elementary, South Early College High School, Southmayd Elementary, Sutton Elementary, the Rice School, and Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy.
The following Houston private schools have registered to participate in Hour of Code: Corpus Christi Catholic School, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, the Emery/Weiner School, Epiphany Lutheran School, Grace School, Lutheran High North, The Redd School, River Oaks Baptist School, St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, St. Anne Catholic School, St. Theresa Catholic School, and St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal School.
A number of other public and private schools in the greater metropolitan area have also registered – to see whether your child’s school is among them, you can search here.
If your child does not attend a school with a registered event, you may still be able to make a community event like the one at the Children’s Museum of Houston. And even without participating in an official event, your child can still enjoy the benefits of Hour of Code by simply playing through the coding tutorials and exercises on Code.org.
The Hour of Code modules are a wonderful resource for parents who want their children to learn more about computer science, because they are fun, independently-guided activities that are available for free.