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Business, STEM

An Hour of Code: A User’s Experience

Future Engineers (Source: Black Girls Code)

Future Engineers (Source: Black Girls Code)

Last week and a few weeks before that I reminded friends, business contacts, and even some of my relatives via social media that December 9 -13, 2013 was Computer Science Education Week. In addition to many, many activities planned to recognize those who work with and use computers, a special challenge was issued to students and everyone else in the U.S. by brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi, founders of the non-profit organization, Code.org [Ref 1]. The challenge that became known as Hour of Code asked every teacher in the U.S. to dedicate at least one hour of class time during this special week to educate their students on computer science. It could be any teacher, including English, History or Health Education.

President Obama, a number of well-known celebrities, politicians, and many companies got on board to help promote this very important STEM initiative. I decided to get involved as well. I have not done any serious programming since graduate school and back when Fortran was the language of choice. I have since learned Basic and C but haven’t used either in so long that I am in need of a remedial course. C has evolved to C++, and there is also C# (pronounced C-sharp). Fortran 77 has evolved to Fortran 2008, and it appears that Fortran 2015 is in the works. Fortran was and still is a language that is especially suited for numeric computation and scientific computing, and is still heavily used by the science and engineering communities. I have been saying for the past two years that even as a small business owner who is computer savvy, I could benefit from enhancing my knowledge of computer hardware, software, and coding.

Photo courtesy TechCrunch

Photo courtesy TechCrunch

When I was studying for my master of science in engineering degree at Howard University, most computer training  occurred in the classroom. However, by the time I enrolled into the Executive MBA program at Arizona State University, classroom learning was just one of many platforms that one could learn how to use a computer and learn coding languages. Just in the past few years, the internet has almost blown up with many free or open course resources for do-it-yourself (DIY) learners and folks that have difficulty and restrictions accessing the traditional classroom. Initially I was overwhelmed with the materials and resources available on the web for those organizations promoting Computer Science Week, however, I settled on Computer Science Education Week Resources [Ref 2] – a short but useful article I found on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) website as my introductory resource to ease into this thing called coding.

The following topics were covered:

  •  Introductory Video for Hour of Code/Computer Science Education Week
  •  Introductory Resource/President Obama Calls on Every American to Learn Code
  •  Introductory Resource/Beginner Code Tutorials from Computer Science Education Week
  •  Resource/Khan Academy “What is Programming?”
  •   Resource/Udacity Introduction to Computer Science
  •   Infographic/Why the U.S. STEM Initiative Shouldn’t Overlook Computer Science by The New Jersey Institute of Technology

Most of the videos were very short, less than five minutes, and emphasized a few key topics. After viewing all of them, it didn’t really come as a surprise that I didn’t give myself enough credit for the coding that I am already doing that includes programming my cell phone, my calculator, Excel spreadsheets, as well as the ability to publish my blog, A Bridge for Business and STEM, etc.

After reviewing all six videos above, I was feeling quite confident about the skills I already had as well as the new information that I gleaned in about a half-hour. I decided to go back to the Beginner Code Tutorials and investigate some of the options for “beyond one hour”. I settled on experimenting with a software tool called Scratch [Ref 3] that allows one to do a number of things including making animated e-cards. With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations. It is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is provided free of charge, and is designed for 8- to 16-year olds, however, it is used by all age group.

iPhoneAppsAfter demo-ing the software, I found six tutorials on You-Tube on how to use Scratch. I am even more excited because I now have a tool that I can use to educate and communicate with my younger relatives who are in grade school.

According to Hour of Code organizers, 15 million students were reached during this five-day initiative to get kids to learn about programming [Ref 4]. Project co-coordinator, Hardi Partovi said he had hoped for 1 million students to participate in Hour of Code and was pleasantly surprised to have 4.5 million students sign up in advance. It is very possible that the number of students reached is twice this amount not counting those teachers and students who did not register online.

As for me, I do plan to continue with my computer coding journey. I plan to set aside four to six hours each week for training and that includes learning coding and computer related applications.

P.S. Expect to see my e-cards using Scratch in the very near future!

References:

  1. “Obama, Celebrities, Politicians And Tech Co’s Come Together To Launch Coding Education Push”, Rip Empson, TechCrunch, December 8, 2013, last viewed 12.17.2013, http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/08/obama-celebrities-politicians-and-tech-cos-come-together-to-launch-computer-science-education-push
  2. Computer Science Education Week Resources, December 9, 2013, National Public Radio, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/2013/12/computer-science-week-resources/
  3. About Scratch, www.scratch.mit.edu
  4. 15 Million Students Learned to Program This Week, Thanks to Hour of Code”, Liz Gannes, All Things D, December 13, 2013, http://allthingsd.com/20131213/15-million-students-learned-to-program-this-week-thanks-to-hour-of-code/
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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

Discussion

One thought on “An Hour of Code: A User’s Experience

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. Within idea I must put in writing like this additionally — taking time as well as actual work to make a great article but exactly what do I say My partner and i procrastinate a large amount and by no means apparently get something accomplished.

    Like

    Posted by angela | January 4, 2014, 4:16 pm

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