Computer Science is one of the hottest and most lucrative professions today, but even beyond official computer science jobs, almost all jobs make heavy use of technology, software programs, and some sort of automation. All of this is driven by “code” – step-by-step instructions that tell the information processor inside the computer how to do its work. Many would argue that “coding” is a new basic literacy, and that every young person should know the basic concepts about coding. This helps us understand and interact with technology more effectively. That’s where “Hour of Code” comes into play.
I learned about “Hour of Code” a couple years ago, and it has been way down on my “someday/maybe” list. Well, I bumped it up to top of the list the day after Thanksgiving. Frankly, I said to myself, “It’s pathetic that have never actually coded before, especially since there’s an easy, online way to try it out.”
I jumped in, watched the easy to follow tutorial, and created my lines of code for a couple of Star Wars-inspired games. It took less than an hour, and some of that time included the instructional videos, but I would block out the hour to get the experience. There are lots of scenarios tailored to different interests, but they all teach the same basic skills. Here’s the link. https://hourofcode.com/us/learn
After completing the exercises, I realized that I’ve used similar parts of my brain in other tasks that were not specifically coding. I found out that this type of reasoning is called “Computational Thinking.” For example, when I’ve written out project plans into step-by-step logical sequences of action steps. I’ve used similar thinking in thinking about work-flow, setting up a logical buffet line, or creating a family budget spreadsheet. I was drawing upon and developing the logical, actionable parts of my brain.
In addition to computational thinking, another concept that was discussed during the Hour of Code was that coding requires persistence and patience. You don’t have to be a math genius, but you do have to take your time, learn to think sequentially, and keep working at it.
This is a powerful mindset for life success. Anytime we have approached mastery in something, patience and persistence were at work.
For example, when I was 12 years old, I picked up an acoustic guitar that my sister had. I started plucking the strings. I found a chord chart guide, and awkwardly placed my fingers on the correct strings and frets. I was a novice. But with time, effort, and persistence, what once felt so awkward began to feel natural and became a source of joy.
Around the same time, I made a decision to either really get better at basketball or just give it up. I started practicing specific moves and skills, and pretty quickly got good enough to start really enjoying the game. Persistence and focused practice paid off.
So, coding has multiple benefits. It shows that computer-enabled technology is not magic. It is based on code. Coding also helps develop logical, sequential thinking which is so important for career and life success. It also teaches the necessity and reward for patience and persistence.
Do an Hour of Code for yourself. Then, make sure it gets embedded somewhere in your school experience for all students.
Are there any examples of Hour of Code you would like to share? Has your school done the hour of code for middle school or high school students? How did it go? And how do schools embed coding, computational thinking into the curriculum, beyond the official computer science classes?