It’s been almost a year to date from my last post about the Hour of Code. After I am done lamenting about how fast time flies, it’s important to recognize how little has changed about this event. It is still the greatest educational event humanity has put together, and this year it was bigger and better than the last. I can’t possibly say enough about the merits of the Hour of Code, and I wrote that whole article last year raving about it.
This year, I’d like to share what we did at Greenwich High School to make the event extra special. We reserved the library computer lab all day and had teachers sign up to bring their classes to the event. Our four classes of computer programming students then led these students through the Hour of Code tutorials, many citing that it was “one of the coolest things they’d ever done”. I always preach the dangers of believing the block languages used in the Hour of Code is actual coding, since it’s not, but the teacher in me joyfully giggled when many of the students answered those inevitable questions with expertise. We invited some local press coverage to the event, and major kudos to Paul Schott who wrote this fantastic article about it. Susan Morris also took some video as well:
The major question is, has anything changed since last year? The Hour of Code remains fantastic, but what’s different about computer science education in our country? I think the biggest change is that the concept of every student learning coding in high school is now creeping into conversations on a far more frequent basis. We’ve utterly created this conversation at our school, because the enrollment in the program went from 0 to 33 to 100 in two years. 300 students participated in the Hour of Code event this year. Students are talking about it with their parents, community members talk about it with me, and I talk about it with my colleagues. Two years ago nobody cared. This is a good sign.
I’ve written about some realizations about computer programming in high school frequently on this blog. Here are two examples of the way creating this program has changed my concepts of teaching, and that hasn’t stopped. Just last week a student informed me that he was hired by a company to program part of their website on a part time basis. I’ve begun signing senior project forms: for students who plan on starting businesses creating animated films and selling products online. These are students who, from no programming to just a year and a half of experience believe that they can accomplish these goals. It doesn’t take much, clearly, but many students don’t have the opportunity because they’re stuck learning skills that can’t be translated into success. I think this is the next big step for education: teaching students how to monetize their skills. Not just computer skills, but art, writing, woodworking, and everything else. If there’s anything I’ve learned from this journey so far, it’s that students absolutely have the talent to succeed in this manner, but they need guidance, an opportunity to actually develop their creative talent, and someone to help manage their time for long term goals, since they have zero experience doing that.