December 7-13 is Computer Science Education Week, and the third annual Hour of Code event is being held concurrently to promote bringing more children into the discipline one step at a time.
With the Hour of Code program, students are encouraged to log a single hour of basic programming practice in the hope that they will learn how easy and fun programming can be. Hour of Code can be done at any time, and events focused on the program can be hosted anywhere.
Hour of Code is organized by Code.org, a computer science education project. In addition to furthering general computer science education, Code.org seeks to get girls involved to close the gender gap in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Towards this end, Hour of Code is providing a Star Wars themed tutorial featuring Princess Leia and the new female character Rey.
Hour of Code has become quite popular in its three years of existence. More than 191,000 Hour of Code events are being held in more than 180 countries, reaching a total 50 million students and one-third of US schools are participating. Supporters include US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, and representatives from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon. The company has worked with Microsoft, Apple, Disney, and Lucasfilm, among others.
Code.org was founded in 2013 by brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi, and offers free online technology education, reports Taylor Soper of GeekWire. In addition to organizing Hour of Code, it provides technology courses and encourages school districts to incorporate programming into their curricula.
Other tech companies are joining in to provide supplementary coding materials.
Last month, Microsoft unveiled a Minecraft-themed Hour of Code tutorial, according to D. Frank Smith of Ed Tech Magazine, which uses the familiar blocks of the popular video game to teach students to code in a visual way.
Google’s Made with Code site will allow users to animate scenes from Pixar’s newest feature film, Inside Out. According to Marco della Cava of USA Today, Made with Code aims to bring girls into STEM fields by showing them that women are just as adept at and interested in coding as men are.
469 Apple stores will be Hour of Code bases, writes Sean Coughlan of the BBC. According to Craig Federighi, a top executive at Apple, collaborative events like Hour of Code help combat the stereotype that coding is only for “nerdy” and solitary types. He said:
People sometimes have a view of programming that is something solitary and very technical. But programming is among the most creative, expressive, and social careers.
It’s an incredibly creative medium, not unlike music, and there’s a tremendous cross-over between people who program and musicians.
Danielle Feinberg, director of photography at Pixar, agreed. She said:
The mythology seems to imply that you really have to be a genius in order to code. That’s why it’s important to create ways to just get people to just try it, because that’s when you might get pulled in.