Eastern Iowa students participate in an "Hour of Code"

National effort strives to bring HTML, CSS and Javascript to youth

Hundreds of Eastern Iowa schoolchildren are learning the ropes of computer programming this week, as part of a national effort to make HTML, CSS and Javascript child’s play.

The Hour of Code is part of Computer Science Education Week, which began Monday, and is an annual program aimed at sparking interest in kindergarten through 12th grade students. More than 300,000 coding sessions have been planned across the nation.

About 20 students at South East Junior High in Iowa City participated Wednesday in Hour of Code, as part of an after-school club. South East Principal Matt Degner said the event was a successful way to challenge students with experience in coding and introduce it to beginners.

Hour of Code participants are asked to log on to code.org, where tutorial videos guide them through the basics of coding and how to apply it to develop games. The highly-interactive tutorials are accessible on a range of platforms from desktops to smart phones and tablets in the classroom or at home.

The Iowa City Public Library is holding an Hour of Code event from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The event is part of CoderDojo, a computer science club at the library for students in fifth to 12th grade and led by University of Iowa technology employees Dave Welch and Hans Hoerschelman.

Welch, a UI Hospitals and Clinics application developer, said students will be going through the online tutorials and breaking up into small groups to learn other aspects of code. He said the importance of these initiatives and groups is “to make these young kids, who are growing up and have technology enmeshed in their lives, to make them true digital natives.”

More than 900 students from the BCLUW and GMG school districts took part in Hour of Code on Monday, according to Superintendent Ben Petty.

Petty said coding helps students build their creativity and problem solving skills while having fun.

“By doing this, they’re creating small games or puzzles, they’re not working on something that someone else has built for them,” he said.

Technology bigwigs including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, political leaders such as President Barack Obama and other celebrities have embraced the Hour of Code movement and appear in online videos advocating that anyone can learn the basics of computer science.

“Don’t just play on your phone, program it,” Obama said in his video.

The campaign comes at a time of state and nationwide efforts to draw more students to science, technology, engineering, and math fields — known collectively as STEM – as technology grows and future jobs require many of those skills.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates by 2020, 9.2 million jobs will be available in STEM fields, with half of those jobs in computing or information technology.

Degner said school officials recognize the importance and the attention has sparked conversation of how to incorporate more coding into the classroom.

“That’s where, as a school, we want to be asking ourselves how do we create a relevant experience for students,” he said.

Event details:

  • What: CoderDojo “Hour of Code”
  • When: Saturday, Dec. 14 from 2 – 4 p.m.
  • Where: Iowa City Public Library’s computer lab

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