Introducing kids to coding, one hour at a time

Hour of Code, which starts Monday, is a weeklong effort to help students engage in the basics of computer science.

Thousands of schools worldwide will participate next week in Hour of Code, an initiative from nonprofit group Code.org to introduce computer programming to K-12 students.

The effort, which coincides with Computer Science Education Week, is an outgrowth of the group's goal to influence schools to squeeze in one hour of coding instruction on a weekly basis -- including in the US.

"Estonia teaches it from third grade and up. Vietnam teaches it from third grade and up," said Hadi Partovi, Code.org's founder. "America is the leader in software and technology, and we are really lagging behind in terms of teaching our kids about it."

Code.org is trying to make it as easy as possible to join the effort by offering a slew of tutorials that teachers can adopt into their lesson plans. Some don't even require computer equipment.

House of Code has plenty of Silicon Valley starpower behind it from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Dropbox CEO Drew Houston -- as well as actual rock star Will.i.am.

After interviewing Partovi, he showed me a simple game called Light-Bot which I, in turn, showed my 6-year old daughter. Players drag and drop commands (turn, jump, etc.) to navigate a robot through an obstacle course. My daughter was quickly hooked, and her princess costumes went untouched all day. Maybe you don't know many 6-year-old girls. But trust me when I say very little comes between them and their Snow White ensembles.

Whether Code.org can bring about a shift in education standards remains to be seen, but Partovi is committed.

"We're increasingly getting the message out that learning to dissect an app is an important as learning to dissect a frog -- or learning how the Internet works is as important as learning how electricity works," he said.

About the author

    Sumi Das has been covering technology since the original dot-com boom. She was hired by cable network TechTV in 1998 to produce and host a half-hour program devoted to new and future technologies. Prior to CNET, Sumi served as a Washington DC-based correspondent, covering breaking news for CNN. She reported live from New Orleans and contributed to CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned the network a Peabody Award. She also files in-depth tech stories for BBC News which are seen by a primarily international audience.

     

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