The Hour of Code, a worldwide initiative by Code.org to get more kids to learn the basics of programming, had its most successful run yet in North Dakota. Last month, Dec. 2015, 29 whole schools and 94 classrooms in North Dakota hosted the Hour of Code during National Computer Science week.
“We had over 900 students participate and 51 volunteers,” said Holly Erickson, STEM Outreach Coordinator at North Dakota State University. “Every classroom I visited, every group was happy. Proud and happy.”
The Hour of Code leads students through gamified lessons in basic programming ranging from beginner to advanced. The purpose, Code.org states, is to “demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.” Since its launch in 2013, the program has spread to 198,473 events around the world.
The lessons are for anyone between the ages of 4 -104, Code.org states. Lessons for younger techies feature characters like Anna and Elsa from Frozen or Angry Birds to keep things interesting.
Teachers were happy with the level of engagement they saw from students, Erickson said.
“One teacher said, usually at this point you’d see them messing around. But every kid was engaged for that whole hour,” she said.
Each participating classroom had a facilitator, or a volunteer from the tech industry that shared about their work and guided the students. When they first announced the program, Erickson and other organizers were concerned at the lack of volunteers. But as interest grew, she was impressed with how the tech community showed up.
“Intelligent InSites, for example, gave out 12-15 people to help facilitate that day,” Erickson said. “What people gave up was fantastic. I was really impressed with what the industry was able to do.”
NDSU President Dean Bresciani showed true commitment by leaving during Bison play-offs to visit a classroom. But it seems he got plenty of Bison support from the students.
Erickson said that for 2016, Fargo and West Fargo schools are looking to collaborate towards a joint Hour of Code participation. This would be a significant step for getting more students involved, Erickson said. A plus – not just as a fun day for students, but because Erickson and others are confident that skills in programming are the language of the future.
“It’s stuff I wish was available to me as a student,” she said. “I hope next year we can double it and do more.”
Photos courtesy of Code.org and North Dakota State University.