Guest blog post by Rebecca Moore, Development and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft
This week’s Hour of Code is an initiative that asks schools, teachers and parents across the country to help introduce students to computer programming. It fits in the long term mission of Code.org, giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science, the belief that every 21st century child can benefit from learning this foundational field. To coincide with the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Code.org’s launch of the UK Hour of Code was at Westminster City School on Monday 3rd March. Microsoft, being an established partner and advocate of coding in the UK, were there to support the event.
Hour of Code highlights that anyone can learn programming. It aims to demystify computer science for students across the country by taking them through introductory tutorials that can be completed online, on a smartphone or even unplugged. Code.org offers online tutorials authorised by numerous educational groups and is challenging teachers, parents and even employers to encourage students of all ages to engage during Computer Science Education Week. Code.org’s own tutorial has been created in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. Designed as a game that teaches basic coding principles, it will feature guest lectures by technologists including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and artwork from games like "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies".
Children at the Westminster City School launch were enthused by various coding activities on the day. Activities included ‘The Hour of Code live’, ‘The Kodu Game Lab’, ‘Computing without computers’ and ‘The Great British Code Off’. Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director of Microsoft UK spoke on the importance of the Hour of Code and children getting excited about coding, as well as a future career in IT. He highlighted the importance of understanding computers at work for the future generation. He identified the importance of bridging the gap between the 1.3 million people employed in the IT industry and those vacancies still available, with people not trained to fill them. Avid Larizadeh, Hour of Code, also presented. Avid has background in programming and engineering, and runs her own fashion business – leading both the development team as well as the creative direction of the site. The idea that you can combine both engineering and creative skills is what Avid hopes will inspire both boys and girls to get involved in coding.
Microsoft has been an enthusiastic supporter of the move the change the IT curriculum to a Computer Science one for many years. Microsoft have two ambitions when it comes to supporting the education community and computer science: that every school leaver sound be computationally literate, and that 80% of all jobs that require computer science knowledge should be able to be filled by a UK graduate. This includes careers in finance, engineering, bio-chemistry, pharmaceuticals, advertising, aerospace, retail. Microsoft want to help as many teachers as possible get ready for the new curriculum, and see enhanced life opportunities for young people in the UK.
Josh Naylor is a Computer Science student at The University of Hull. "Yesterday I was fortunate to be involved with the UK launch of Hour of Code. Many know that programming is a tough and challenging task to do well. Demonstrating the concept to parents, teachers and students in a fun introduction across the nation will hopefully lead to an inspired young generation of students going into skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses and eventually jobs.
"I was involved in The Great British Code Off, demonstrating Project Spark. 13 year old developer Ross Lowe and I were setup attached to two large screens in a one hour ‘code off’. We were invited up on stage to pick a theme each out of an envelope. Ross selected "Retrieve the treasure" and I selected "Escape the evil". We started to code our games live on Project Spark, as attendees wandered round and watched what we were doing. I was very pessimistic until the last five minutes, thinking I had set myself too large a task though I managed to pull something playable together.
"The judges were three Microsoft employees including Gary Carr, of Lionhead Studios. I was fortunate to be crowned winner, though it was a very tight call. Ross and I showed young students the games we had created, and a basic walk through of how we had made them. The students were very excited by our games, it had opened their eyes to what can be achieved with knowledge of computing. The balance is making sure the idea of coding is attractive and accessible, without dumbing down a technical concept too much. I hope on the day this is what we managed to achieve.