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The Hour of Code is Here!

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Students from KCET's Youth Voices program in Leimert Park | Photo: Rubi Fregoso/KCET Departures

Computer Science Education Week begins today with the launch of the second annual Hour of Code, designed to welcome new learners of all ages to computer coding. The Hour of Code is an international happening with the goal to demystify code and offer user friendly tutorials that invite everyone to learn the basics of computer science in an hour.

Last year the event reached 15 million students in 170 countries during the five day event. The success of the event showed the openness of young people to explore computer science and coding, especially through fun and engaging tutorials that encourage critical thinking, collaboration, and spark creativity.

The week-long event encourages teachers to host an hour of code and offer their students a series of age appropriate tutorials that allows them to work at their own pace and skill-level. Some of the tutorials feature Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and Elsa and Anna from Disney's Frozen. For students who need a bigger challenge there are also activities teaching JavaScript or Python. There are even tutorials for those who do not have access to computers. There is no experience necessary on either the teacher or the student's part. It's an introduction that is meant to excite, encourage, and empower students to learn to code and encourage educators to embed similar activities into their curriculum, and ultimately to implement computer science (CS) classes at all grade levels.

Throughout Los Angeles over 350 schools are hosting a one-hour activity, a school-wide event, or a special community event. Students at Foshay Technology Academy in South Los Angeles will not only participate in the Hour of Code, but some 10th graders will also work with parents as part of a special Hour of Code activity. This is a similar event to what they did last year with community members. This type of activity creates a bridge between the students and their parents, raising awareness of the importance of the student's work, and the support necessary to create a community of learners. Lead teacher, Leslie Aaronson has developed a program at the Foshay Technology Academy rich in opportunities to empower students to think critically, take initiative, and use their skills to make a positive impact in their community. You can read more about Foshay Tech and their students in the Departures Open Classroom column.

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The ease and proliferation of computers, tablets and smart phones hides the fact that fewer schools teach CS than 10 years ago. With only half of the fifty states counting CS as a science or math graduation requirement, there is small incentive to create more CS programs. This creates a vicious cycle for the student populations most in need of an early introduction to CS -- girls and students of color. By not having this learning opportunity at such a critical time in their education, marginalized communities continue to lag behind in the CS fields. This at a time when computer science is the top earning college degree, and there is a growing need for computer programmers. Leaders in government, technology, business and education have voiced the need for 21st-century students to have an opportunity to learn computer science to be competitive in the global economy. Even basic CS knowledge helps nurture creativity and problem-solving skills, and prepares students for any future career.

Foshay Tech Academy students collaborate with community members during the 2013 Hour of Code event.  photo by Leslie Aaronson

There's still time to get involved in the Hour of Code. To learn more and find the locations of events this week click here. If your children's school is not participating in the Hour of Code, parents can still have their kids do the user friendly tutorials available on-line. They can even try them out themselves. For those interested, but looking for more guidance, Apple Stores are also offering Hour of Code sessions . We are all learners, and the language of the 21st century is code.

Tutorials for the Hour of Code:
Code.org
Khan Academy
Tynker
TouchDevelop
CodeCombat

 

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