FutureStructure

Hour of Code Prepares the Next Generation for Tech Careers

The Code.org sponsored movement is aiming to better prepare students for working with computers and breaking down stereotypes that its not for all.

by Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle / December 11, 2015 0
Flickr/Paris Buttfield-Addison

(TNS) -- Hour of Code started three years ago with a long-shot idea: Get 10 million students to try computer coding.

This week, coding lessons have taken place worldwide, with up to 100 million students expected to participate as part of Computer Science Education Week. “We are demystifying stereotypes that computer science is for nerds only, that you have to take advanced math, that you have to be a genius,” said Roxanne Emadi, a spokeswoman for Code.org, the Seattle nonprofit that sponsors the movement.

Code.org works throughout the year on its primary mission of having computer science taught in every K-12 school. It has teamed with Oakland Unified School District to bring computer science to all of its schools, including professional development for teachers, a custom curriculum, marketing to students, a plan to establish a full program and other forms of support, Emadi said.

Code.org awards $10,000 to one high school in each state to invest in technology. Oakland’s Fremont High School received the grant this year in recognition of it getting the entire student body to participate in Hour of Code.

“Even so close to Silicon Valley, only a small percentage of Oakland students are enrolled in computer science,” Emadi said. “This is the start of making a big difference to give those students access to some of the best job opportunities in the world, so near to home for them.”

Sixty-minute coding tutorials took place in Bay Area schools this week, many run by volunteers from Apple, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, Infosys, LinkedIn and HP Inc. Disney and Lucasfilm created a “Star Wars”-themed coding tutorial pegged to next week’s release of “The Force Awakens,” while another tutorial is based on the popular video game “Minecraft.”

For locations where students don’t have computers or Internet access, Code.org provides “unplugged” tutorials to teach basic concepts without a computer. All tutorials run on any device, so the lessons can can be taught on smartphones, for instance.

President Obama wrote his own code at the White House to kick off last year’s event. Hour of Code has dramatically raised awareness and spurred policymakers to be more supportive of funding computer science education, Emadi said.

“Once a school or teacher starts with one hour, it’s a spark to keep going, especially when they see how excited and empowered the students are,” she said. “It takes on a life of its own.”

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