All industries are being changed by technology so computer science has become relevant to almost every career. The U.S currently has over half a million openings for computing jobs, and these jobs are expected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, last year less than 50,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce. This is a huge discrepancy. The Hour of Code was started five years ago to interest more students in computer science at an earlier age in order to close the gap between the industry need for coders and those entering the field. 

The Hour of Code is intended to introduction students to critical 21st-century skills of computer science and to inspire innovation. Since Hour of Code started, over 100 million students from across the world have been challenged to use their imaginations and create code by participating. 

This week, December 3-9, is Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) and the goal this year is to interest 1 billion people in computer science by participating in the Hour of Code. Over 11,000 coding events have been registered at the code.org site including school-wide assemblies and coding nights with parents. 

Mostly it’s teachers hosting The Hour of Code in their classrooms or cafeterias. Many open with a short Code.org video to kick off the event. Then students pick a one-hour activity/tutorial from hundreds available at code.org/learn. Options for beginners and intermediates are available for each grade level. 

The new feature tutorial this year created in conjunction with Amazon Future Engineer is a series of dance party activities. This allows students to code their own dance party using musical hits from over 30 famous artists like Selena Gomez, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry. 

Students are encouraged to be creative when coding their interactive dance moves and special effects using a tutorial that teaches basic computer science. The activities include video tutorials by singers, computer scientists, and engineers who teach how to use the Play Space, Toolbox, and Work Space as well as how to create events and adjust properties of the dancers.

Those hosting an Hour of Code should select a place and choose a tutorial. With hundreds of one-hour tutorials to pick from, it’s easy to tailor it to the age and interest of the group if the dance party isn’t their thing. One tutorial teaches how to create an interactive holiday card while another from Khan Academy teaches javascript. 

Hour of Code is challenging students of all ages to do one hour of a computer science activity.  Learning to code by playing self-guided activities empower students with no experience to have fun learning at their own pace. Any device will work whether it’s a phone, tablet, Mac or PC, but since the activities are online, reliable internet access is important. 

Teachers are encouraged to post students’ dance party creations, photos of students coding or videos of groups dancing their code on social media. To end the event, teachers can present certificates of success and have students share their creations, discuss a difficulty they overcame, or brag about a success they accomplished.

Coding teaches students how to make computers work for them. This helps them think differently about problems and transforms the way they think about the world. Computer science puts students on the path toward some of the highest paying, fastest growing jobs in America. 

According to code.org, ninety percent of parents want their children to have access to computer science education at school because they know that technology opens doors. Computer science used to be marginalized but is now moving to the core of our education system. 

Over 100 school districts across the country are starting new computer science courses. Over a dozen states have proposed that computer science courses count toward core mathematics or science high school graduation requirements. 

A hundred thousand teachers have already begun teaching computer science. Twenty states now support professional training for new computer science teachers. 

Access to computer science in school is an economic imperative in order for our nation to remain competitive. As the threat of cyber warfare increases, it has also become a matter of national security.

America has always been a tech leader with the invention of the personal computer, the internet, social networking, and the smartphone. Self-driving cars and delivery drones are only a few of the recent innovations. Imagine what the next generation of coders will design for us.

 

Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at educationallyspeaking@gmail.com.

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