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Doug Bergman: Hour of Code

hourofcode

by Doug Bergman
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

What an exciting time to be alive and in Computer Science!

Ahh yes….Computer Science…..but I bet many of you do not know what Computer Science really is?

Surprisingly, most of the world does not have a real understanding of what Computer Science is.

“….What?! Sure we do. Of course we do. We hear it all the time. We took typing classes in high school and  classes on spreadsheets and word processing and desktop publishing…We know what it is!…….”

Uhm….no…..

What I mean by that is if we hear the word ‘biology” we at least know what discipline deals with. We know  one of the tools of biology is the microscope and we know that we’ll study plants and animals. And we took a class or two related to it. When we hear the word “math”, we know some of the concepts of math are addition, algebra, geometry, and even calculus. We know some of the tools of math are formulas, algorithms, calculators, and rulers.  And we took a class or two in math. When we hear the word “language” while we may not all be poets and authors, we all have exposure to the rules and syntax and logic of spoken and written language. And we took several classes. When we hear the word “history” we don’t necessarily know all the reasons for the major military battles across the globe or the logic behind the major political decisions over the years… but we know that it deals with our past and if we study it we can help to build a better future. And we took a class or two.

Yet, we live in times where digital devices and computers are the driving force of life, economy, and commerce.  Some families have several digital devices. Many business men and women are lost without their technology. It would not be uncommon for a high school student to have a smartphone, a laptop, wireless home network, and even a printer. And yet most people have never taken a Computer Science class.

In the US, the majority of schools do not offer Computer Science, much less require it for graduation.

We want and need people to start to look at Computer Science differently, to understand what it really is (and isn’t), and figure out if/where it fits into our educational systems.

But, the purpose of this BLOG post is to introduce the HOUR of CODE, not explain what Computer Science is. If you want to read more about THAT, you can check out one of my BLOG posts about that (http://innovativeteacher.org/?p=888)

One aspect of Computer Science is programming, or coding.

Enter: the “Hour of Code”

Thanks for the vision of Hadi Partovi @ Code.Org to try to introduce the public to what Computer Science is.  One component of that was to bring Computer Science to schools in every town, county, state, and country.   He got entertainment celebrities, sports heroes, entrepreneurs, technology moguls…men and women…people of different races, different religions, and different cultures to help.  And it worked!

Check out that famous video they created to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKIu9yen5nc was viewed by millions of people. And it inspired millions to give it a shot.

Along with that video, some of those same people helped make “how to” tutorials for a simple video game using the Angry Birds characters, made with real Computer Science.  What really helped make it so successful was that the tutorials were fun, they were not dry “type this, do this” style–they were interactive, with lots of visual and audio feedback, and plenty of hints along the way. The self-paced tutorials led people through the process, from beginning to end, of actually making an entire game.  It was pretty cool hearing Mark Zuckerberg & Chris Bosh explain LOOPING or Bill Gates explain conditional IF statements.

Of course we do not expect someone to be an expert in programming after 1 hour, but we think it might spark some undiscovered interest, break down some misunderstandings or incorrect perceptions, or is simply let someone have some good creative digital fun.  Out of the millions of people who will try the Hour of Code, we know there will be people who just “get it”….as they move through the tutorials, they find that it makes sense to them, and they are even able to do some of the challenges without help, and they are able to take the ideas in their head and bring them into something tangible on the screen in front of them. And those people may reconsider Computer Science as an area they want to explore, maybe they just take a class, read a book, or just make a realization that Computer Science is not what they thought and their conversations around that topic are now different.

I challenge YOU (you mean me? Yes YOU!).  JUST TRY IT! It’s free. It’s something you can do on your own, together with friends, with your family, with your class, or your colleagues. Depending on your background, you can pick a very basic beginner level tutorial for a game around “Frozen” or “Angry Birds”; or perhaps you might pick an intermediate level tutorial for a bit more challenging. Perhaps you want to explore something with graphics, robotics, or even an iPhone app? Maybe take it to the next level with some Python or JavaScript?

Just try it. Just do it.

Code.org/learn

http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/youthspark/youthsparkhub/hourofcode/

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