My 9-year-old came home from school last week, more excited than I’ve seen her all year. She flipped open my laptop and logged onto Code.org.
“Look what I made,” she said proudly.
She showed me a page that was split in half – the right side of the page was a colorful animation of a blue bowling ball rolling down a red hill, with a bright yellow sun in the background. The left side of the page contained several lines of computer code – words like “function” and “variable” and lots of dashes, hyphens and semi-colons.
She explained to me how she wrote the code on the left to draw the picture, color it in, and then animate it.
Unbeknownst to me, her fourth grade class had participated in the “Hour of Code,” a campaign organized by the computer education nonprofit, Code.org, to give kids around the world a taste of computer science by coding for an hour.
President Obama kicked off the campaign with a video in which he told students: “Don’t just buy a new video game. Make one. Don’t just download the latest app. Help design it. Don’t just play on your phone. Program it.”
Part of Computer Science Education Week, the Hour of Code’s goal was to teach 10 million students the basics of computer programming. The turnout was bigger than expected, with 15 million students logging on from around the world to learn to code. According to Code.org, 1 in 5 students in the U.S. participated. More girls coded in school last week than they have in the past 70 years.
My daughter was one of them.
What really struck me most was her enthusiasm for computer programming. My son is the computer geek in our family. He’s in 7th grade and is already programming in HTML, Ruby and Java. My daughter? Singing and dancing has been more of her thing – at least until now.
“Being able to draw a picture and then make it move – just by typing letters and numbers – is amazing,” my daughter told me. She said that coding was “fun and easy.”
“The website guided you through it,” she explained. “When you were doing the actual coding, there was a voice speaking to you, telling you what to do. And you could see what you created on the same page. It was pretty cool.”
While Computer Science Education Week has officially ended, the push to teach kids high-tech skills is far from over. The Obama administration announced last month a $100 million grant to help high school students become proficient in computer science and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. Those grants will be awarded in early 2014, according to a White House press release.
And my daughter? I’m hoping her elementary school finds a way to add computer programming to the curriculum. Until then, she’s found a course on Khan Academy that teaches her beginning computer design and animation.
I’ve even jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for a 10-day online coding “bootcamp” through a program called SkillCrush. If my kids are going to be coders, I don’t want to be left behind. I’ll touch back in the New Year and let you know how it’s going.
Want to give coding a shot? Head to Code.org to get started.