Code.org has launched an ambitious initiative to introduce more than 10 million students of all ages in the United States to computer programming. The idea is to provide an Hour of Code throughout schools in 50 states during this year's Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013.
Code.org is a non-profit founded, and funded, by twin brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi to promote the idea that "Every student in school should have the opportunity to learn to code". Its launch video had over a million views in less than 24 hours when it first appeared in February 2013 and now the count stands at well over 10 million.
If you missed it in our previous report here's another chance to see the 5-minute version of the promo made by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Vanessa Hurst, Bronwen Grimes with NBA All-Stars Chris Bosh.and musician will.i.am:
The Code.org site has also collected endorsements from prominent US politicians who are uniting to spread the word that the US needs more computer science graduates in order fill an additional million jobs throughout the economy by 2020. But until now Code.org has talked about the importance of learning to program. Now it is proposing to do more.
The initiative was launched this week by Hadi Partovi in a 55-minute "kickoff" presentation in which outlined the challenge and announced support from an impressive line up of supports and partners. A slide that appears in the video before the main presentation begins presents the stark statistic:
Later in the video, Partovi explains that it isn't just the computer industry that is suffering from the fact that computer science has been so neglected in schools but how the whole of the economy needs programmers and those with the thinking skills that programming brings with it.
The plan for the Hour of Code campaign is that every school student receives an introductory tutorial to "demystify computer science" that can be completed online or even offline. Code.org is collecting together tutorials authored by educational groups and, despite the fact it is an umbrella group rather than an educational organisation, it has produced one itself.
According to the announcement:
Code.org’s own tutorial has been created in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. Designed as a game that teaches basic coding principles, it will feature guest lectures by technologists including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and artwork from popular games such as Rovio's "Angry Birds" and PopCap Games’ "Plants vs. Zombies."
It's not enough just to provide resources you have to persuade people, in particular teachers and schools to use them. With this in mind there are prizes for participating:
The first 100,000 educators who host an Hour of Code for their classroom or club will receive 10GB of free storage from Dropbox.
50 schools who organize an Hour of Code will win a full class-set of computers – one winner in every state.
50 classrooms will win a group video conference call with a technology titan to kick off their Hour of Code. Participants include: Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey and Susan Wojcicki.
Students who take a follow-up course online will have a chance to win additional prizes, including Skype credits and online gift cards.
More about what you can expect from the Hour of Code is outlined in this video which suggests that Scratch and Blockly are programming languages that could be introduced:
So can the Hour of Code campaign fix the problem? Well, it is good to see more than discussion, although there will certainly need to be more than the initial introductory tutorials so that kids who are bitten by the programming bug find the support and inspiration to take the next steps.