‘Hour of Code’ Looks to Interest Children in Computer Programming

December 12, 2013

Bob Dugan sat with his 8-year-old son, Ben, on the computer Tuesday night.

Dugan, an associate professor of computer Science at Stonehill College in Easton, had recently heard about the website program Hour of Code, which is devoted to getting people interested in computer coding at a young age.

“We sat down together and watched a couple of videos that were on the Hour of Code website and there’s a tutorial for beginners,” Dugan said. “He needed a little bit of help on one or two of the problems, but he got it.”

Hour of Code is a nationwide campaign coinciding with Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 9-15, designed to “demystify coding and show that anyone can learn the basics.”

The initiative is sponsored by the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. The tutorial uses a series of tasks and puzzles using characters from games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies to keep kids engaged and learning.

“My son was very motivated. He really wanted that Angry Bird to get that pig,” Dugan said of his second-grader.

Kathleen Kirby, Executive Director of CONNECT, a partnership of five area colleges including Bridgewater State University and UMass.-Dartmouth, said there is currently a gap between computer coding jobs available and the number of students to fill the positions.

“There’s a lot of employment available and not enough students graduating in that field to fill the jobs,” Kirby said. “This is a way of introducing it to young children in a way that’s not intimidating and that says ‘you can do it.’”

Bridgewater State will host those who would like to try the Hour of Code on Friday at its Conant Science & Math Center. The university has not gotten much interest from area residents, but Matt Salomone, assistant professor of mathematics at the school who is coordinating the effort, said all are welcome.

“We will have rooms available from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. to accommodate those who would like to come,” Salomone said. “We have the space set aside. We will work with whomever shows up.”

For Dugan, he thinks the Hour of Code is a great way to garner interest.

“I think there’s perception that it’s boring because you sit in front of a computer all day,” Dugan said. “If it’s presented in the right way I don’t think it has to be hard. I think that it’s a really good way to get people excited and interested.”