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Patriot Perspective: The Hour of Code

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Walking down a high school hallway, I see many things that haven’t changed since my high school days.

Students still stop at their lockers to discuss weekend plans with friends and head off to their class with books and notebooks in hand.

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However, some things have changed. Nestled amongst those books are laptops and iPads, Chromebooks and smartphones. It’s true that today’s students are plugged-in to the digital world, but how prepared are they to capitalize on this technology for future career success?

Every software program and mobile app being used on these devices was coded by someone. This means it was someone’s assignment to enter in, line-by-line, a massive string of characters and logical arguments that makes our email message send or the Angry Birds fly.

As our dependence on technology increases, so does the need for individuals who can create, support and maintain these programs. Succinctly put — we need kids who can code.

According to recent reports, U.S. businesses need to fill almost 150,000 tech jobs every year, but universities are only graduating roughly 100,000 students who have the requisite skills. By 2020, the problem is expected to grow significantly with a projected 1.4 million jobs available and only 400,000 likely computer science graduates.

In order to meet the growing demand, several leaders in the tech sector have teamed up with prominent government leaders, educators and celebrities to create Code.org, an organization and website to promote the integration of coding and computer science skills in our K-12 schools and beyond.

Moving beyond traditional computer apps or computer science courses, Code.org’s mission is to integrate coding into all subjects. Tech giant Bill Gates said, “Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, (which) creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.”

Coding is about much more than entering characters, though. Coding teaches kids problem-solving skills and resiliency when things don’t work the first time. Coders are presented a problem and have to build a solution from the bottom up, take risks through trial and error, deal with setbacks as they arise, and test their solution endlessly to make sure it works.

These experiences, coupled with soft-skills like collaboration, build critical 21st century career skills for everyone regardless of whether they choose a career in computer science.

This week, Code.org is inviting everyone to try their hand at coding by holding a nationwide event called the Hour of Code. This event, which takes place during the week of Dec. 9-12, is meant as a one-hour introduction to coding that includes tutorials and videos meant to “demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.”

Pequot Lakes teachers Mrs. Wiste, Mr. Lumley and Mr. Kotaska have their students work on coding projects using both software and free coding programs/apps available for download from the web and Apple’s App Store.

Since anyone can download these tools for free and get started coding without any prior experience, we invite you to join in.

Scratch and TurtleBits are two programs that are basic enough for most children and Code.org and Codeacademy.com provide more information and video tutorials to help you get started.

With these tools, a little know-how and a lot of hard work, who knows who could be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs?

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