Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Hour of Code...

You may have been surprised to see that Google's homepage yesterday included this message under its search box: "Be a maker, a creator, an innovator. Get started now with an Hour of Code".

An Hour of Code is a project led by Code.org that aims to introduce everybody to at least a modicum of understanding what is computer programming. Its underlying logic, quite clearly, is that in this digital age it's arguably impossible for individuals to understand their daily reality if they don't understand the programming behind so many aspects of their social, economic, and cultural existences.

It's a noble goal, to be sure, and their website offers a petition and various tools for educators to incorporate an hour of teaching code in their classrooms. However, most people tweeting their participation seem to be focusing their efforts heavily on HTML. Maybe that's a good place to start for, say, young students, but HTML isn't truly a programming language. The Hour of Code project seems to again raise the important distinction between being code-literate versus being a good programmer.

A helpful suggestion might be for introducing people to code through the use of visual programming languages which have been gaining in popularity and are often designed expressly for novices. I can attest that some computer science professors at my university have used VPLs and editors like Scratch, Blockly, and AppInventor to introduce New York City public school teachers to programming concepts while on sabbatical.

It's terrific that An Hour of Code has received support from the President and other high-profile individuals. Let's just remember that it can really only be considered a success if it leads to students wanting to pursue more than just One Hour.



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