Obama Encourages ‘Hour of Code’ Initiative

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The first president to write a line of code, Barack Obama, has welcomed about 30 middle school students hailing from Newark, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York to actively participate in Computer Science Education week (CSEd Week) through an “Hour of Code” event to be held in the White House. This marks the second annual year of Code.org’s CSEd week and more than 77,000 such events scheduled to occur globally this week.

The Seattle based non-profit initiative Code.org is the lead organizer of the “Hour of Code”, an international campaign to introduce students around the world to the basics of computer programming via interactive tutorials. The bar for the campaign has been drastically raised this year: after responses from 15 million last year, the group aimed to reach 100 million students this year.

Hour of Code is being endorsed by several luminaries and celebrities — from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to the Frozen animated princesses Anna and Elsa. The organization has also joined forces with Apple, Microsoft, Google and dozens of other companies, as well as about 76,000 classrooms across 180 countries to host workshops for the grassroots movement.

With today’s programming a much easier task than it had been in the past, President Obama has encouraged American students to take part in the worldwide movement with the recognition of making students more dexterous in computer science education and being more prepared in an increasingly technological world.

“Don’t just consume things, create things. Take an hour to learn more about the technology that touches every part of our lives,” said President Obama in a video launched to support the campaign.

The program aims to induce critical thinking and creativity in students through complex problems, algorithms and computing to provide the aptitudes required in programming and innovating in the 21st century.

“It really speaks to the need that exists to ensure that our students are able to respond and be successful in a digital world,” said Ida Thompson, director of instructional technology services for Richland School District One.

Seeking an improvement in the amount of computer science training offered to K-12 students, the Obama Administration committed itself to reach to over 4 million students nationwide and investing over $20 million in training of teachers for the upcoming school years. Progress has also been demonstrated with a new partnership with the National Science Foundation and approval of a new Advanced Placement Computer Science course by the College Board.

Kindled by the lack of computer science education equality, the movement has taken further advances in reaching out its influence to women and minorities – groups which have seen low representation in the technology sector. Less-hyped role models such as NASA’s Katherine Johnson and Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper have also been pushed into the limelight to stoke a greater response from these categories.

“I challenge girls from every single country to learn one hour of code” said Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, encouraging female participation in the technology industry.

The movement has plenty to be concerned about. California lacks promise in meeting the desired number of computer science proficient graduates by the year 2020, estimating to only achieve one third of what is expected.