This week, December 4-10, is Computer Science Education Week. Coding Butterfly would like to take this opportunity to introduce our followers and students to the Hour of Code initiative. The Hour of Code is a program intended to encourage educators, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their passion for programming and technology by teaching others, starting in what seems like a very small way.
In the absence of any knowledge about how it works, computers and programming can seem to be almost magical. But, the “Hour of Code” seeks to de-mystify the discipline by demonstrating how simple the first steps on the road to programming can be.
A one hour tutorial may not have a large impact on where a person is, in terms of their ability to understand computer science and/or programming, but by exposing a person to 60 minutes of simple explanations on the basics of the discipline, it can have a huge impact on their attitude. By pulling the curtain away from what previously seemed incomprehensible, students may be influenced to work towards academic and professional fields that they previously thought inaccessible.
It can make a particularly significant difference for demographics that traditionally have not had such access. The stereotypical view of computers being a diversion or work-field for males is belied by the fact that Code.org hosts online courses that are 45% female. Nor are women the only unexpected attendees at the party. 48% of the courses’ rosters are underrepresented minorities and 49% are students on free or reduced meal programs.
Programming and computer science aren’t fields that every person is going to be interested in, but organizations like Code.org and Coding Butterfly strongly believe that they are fields that should be available to anyone who is interested. Code doesn’t have race, gender, or socio-economic status and neither should be people who want to study and create it.
Programming is valuable, too. Obviously, the increasing impact of automation and information technology on the world we live in creates a demand for people to create and control it. By reaching out to all people with an interest, we achieve both meeting this demand for the industry and for consumers, but also provide fulfilling, lucrative jobs for people who want work. But, coding is valuable for its own sake, as well. Some academic studies have suggested that the very process of learning how to program has benefits to the student’s ability to learn other material.
If the old adage comparing the brain to a muscle, “use it or lose it”, has any currency, then programming seems like a good workout. The rules for structuring statements in a program are called “syntax”, the very same word used in the grammar of spoken languages, since they work in such a similar manner. Mathematics is indispensable for programming and computer science. Logic and problem-solving are also intrinsic to the process. Programming also affords great opportunities for creativity in design, aesthetics, and presentation. This seems like the cognitive equivalent of cross-training. Yet, despite the diversity and rigor of programming instruction, students are typically very engaged and enthusiastic about it.
Of course, we aren’t alone in either our enthusiasm or our involvement. The Hour of Code is supported by the Hour of Code organization and the Computer Science Education Week Advisory and Review Committees. But, it also receives support from many leaders in tech, education, and industry, such as Apple, Facebook, Khan Academy, Google, CSTeachers.org, Microsoft, PopCap, and others. We at Coding Butterfly hope you will participate and find the passion for coding that we share.