'Hour of Code' Takes off in Schools

Schools shine a spotlight on computer science education by incorporating coding into their day.

by / December 10, 2013 0
In Columbia, S.C., high school students from Richland District 2 participate in Hour of Code on Monday Dec. 9. Photo credit: Donna Teuber

Computer Science Education Week has inspired schools to focus on coding with their students.

Schools across the country and the world are participating in the Hour of Code between Dec. 9th and 15th so they can show their students that anyone can learn how to code. A nonprofit organization called Code.org launched the Hour of Code as part of its efforts to bring computer science education to every student.

By the end of the week, the nonprofit hopes that 10 million students spend time coding with the help of some of the resources listed on its website. The campaign has received support from President Barack Obama and legislators including U.S. Sens. Mark Warner from Virginia and Cory Booker from New Jersey.

"Computers are going to be a big part of your future, and if you're willing to work and study hard, that future is yours to shape," Obama said in a video message.

To date, Hour of Code events are reaching nearly 4.9 million students in 168 countries, according to Code.org.

In Blythewood, S.C., students from Westwood High School lined the halls with their mobile computing devices as they worked on code. Westwood High decided to host Hour of Code after hearing about it from Mary Paige Boyce, the career and technology coordinator for Richland School District 2.

The students watched an introduction video first in their classroom and then went to the Code.org website to start different activities on their Chromebooks, which each of them received as part of a district-wide initiative. While many of them were new to coding, some students had taken the school's programming course, and they wore "ask me" tags as they walked the hallways.

Not many girls go into computer science, but the ones who were programming games seemed to be having a good time, said Donna Teuber, team leader for technology integration with Richland School District 2.

"One of the girls said, 'I really didn't want to do it, but it's a lot more fun than I thought it would be,'" Teuber recalled.

By playing with code, young students are learning logic and how math can actually apply to what they're doing, said Julie Leary, teacher-librarian at Harborview Elementary School in Juneau, Alaska. And she hopes that through this experience, they'll see that anyone can code.

"One girl was just smiling ear to ear after yelling, 'I got it!' and that was a first-grader I believe, and kind of a squirrely first-grader," said Leary, whose school is part of Juneau School District. "She was focused on it. It was really good for her to see that she could figure it out and problem solve."

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students are going to the school library for a period to work on code this week. Harborview decided to explore coding after Alaska officials asked schools to  consider participating in Hour of Code.

"You never know what hook it is that gets kids involved into a field of study that they want to go into and work some day," said Dave Stoltenburg, principal of Harborview. "It might just be something as simple as an hour or two of working with computers and trying to program them."

During library time for each grade, Leary has students go through some of the tutorials with her on the interactive whiteboard or pair off to work together on computers. Volunteers from Resource Data, Inc., a computer software applications developer with an office in Juneau, are helping the students.

After the Hour of Code and winter break, Leary hopes to start a tech club where students can explore more complicated programs like Scratch, an educational programming language created by MIT.

"I'm hoping that they can see that computers and IT can be for everybody," Leary said.

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.