First published in the Cape Cod Times, 02 December 2014
The hour of code is coming … and it wants you!
That’s right, you.
I mean the you who never gave technology a second thought. You, who say you’re too old to learn. You, who grew up with computers but never looked inside. You, whose six-year-old has never known a world not digital. You, who live on your smart phone. You, in your middle school classroom.
Code.org, a nonprofit that looks like a who’s-who of the tech industry, launched a bold statement last year: Everyone can code. This December 8-14 its grassroots campaign wants tens of millions of students to try what it dubs “an Hour of Code” as part of Computer Science Education week (http://csedweek.org).
Regardless of your own code skill or non-skill, you can host an event, lead an event, participate in an event. or just do it on your own. The outreach targets teachers, parents, and youth organizations, but I think a student can – and should! – be anyone, any age.
In the 1980s, as “the Information Age” buzzed in, the concept of media literacy gained traction. At its core, it said that developing a critical eye and understanding how media got created would build stronger consumers of information, better able to judge and sort through the rapidly growing media stream surrounding us.
In other words, if you knew how it ticked, you wouldn’t be tricked.
Fast forward 30-some years to 2014, where digital devices multiply like metaphorical rabbits, where practically everything you touch contains embedded processors, and computer code drives daily devices from crock-pots to remote controls.
Sure, you can just look the other way. Your kids can grow up as one-way consumers of technology. Or, you can take an hour, test drive the creation of some basic code, and understand what makes the Digital Age tick.
“You don’t have to be a genius to know how to code! Do you need to be genius to learn to read? ” asks Vanessa Hurst, founder of Girl Develop It in Code.org’s 2013 launch video.
“We all depend on technology to communicate, to bank … and none of us know how to read or write code,” points out musician will i am, in the organization’s tech-star-studded statement.
They’re right! When we keep believing that we can’t learn the basics of something so integral to our core functioning, we need to step back and say “why?”
Code.org doesn’t buy the “coding not done here” line– and wants every student in every school to have an opportunity to try coding and to make computer science part of core curriculum.
I mean, doesn’t it strike you odd that in Massachusetts and 24 other states, computer science doesn’t count toward high school graduation and isn’t considered a math or a science class? That is, if it is even offered at all, which in most places, well, it isn’t. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 open MA computing jobs lie open.
Computer science teaches a fundamental way to shape an inquiry, problem solve, and apply logic and critical thinking. By showing how to create – and not just consume – technology, it gives us skills for the 21st century that apply across many occupations and areas of study.
As part of the Hour of Code (http://hourofcode.com/us), Code.org offers up dozens of small approachable hour-long (more or less) projects, starting from Write Your First Computer Program “for ages 4 to 104” to creating your first app on a smart device.
The point lies not in tech-teaching for a special few but rather in celebrating that anyone and everyone has the ability to create technology. Through this high-profile immersion effort, The Hour of Code wants to kick down that mental door that says “computers are hard,” and let in the bright light of “this is fun for all.”
During last year’s innaugural program, 15 million students in 180 countries and 30 languages learned an “Hour of Code” – and more girls tried coding than had tried it in the past 70 years of computing history.
This year’s goal? 100 MILLION students. Audacious? Yup. But if the topic matters and you’re going to make a statement, make it big one!
For December’s event, the Code.org lists 49,614 events around the world, with more appearing every day. US sites represent about half of those.
In Massachusetts, 797 events have been scheduled (http://hourofcode.com/us/events/all/us/ma), including multiple locations at elementary schools in Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, Dennis, Plymouth, Sandwich, Orleans, and Yarmouth, at middle and high schools in Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, and Sandwich, and at the Gathering Up Steam program at Nauset Regional Middle School and at the private Laurel School in Brewster.
That’s a good start. But Hour of Code wants you, too!
So go ahead, give it a try. Code. You might surprise yourself with what you can create. And you just might find yourself with a new lens to see the world through.