After-School “The Hour of Code” Today At Alton Central School (ACS), N.H., For Grades 5 – 8, Attended By 9 Students.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

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by Anura Guruge


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I am not sure whether the fact that only 9 students, total, from Grades 5 to 8 attended this afternoon’s optional, after-school ‘Hour of Code’ initiative was good or bad. Only 1 eighth grader attended, our daughter — because I had told her that attending this was non-negotiable.

I gather that most of the other 8 graders believed that this was a ‘stupid’ event. C’est la vie.

There were probably at least 4 reasons for the belief that it was ‘stupid’ and I was concerned about one of them. The first of these obviously is that to 8 graders most things in life are ‘stupid’. Nothing you can do about that. At that age they know everything.

The second reason, and that is valid, is conflicts with other after-school activities. Only way to have avoided that was to have it during school hours and there may have been rules and regulations against that — especially since Obama and Microsoft (the two primary culprits in the “Common Core” crisis) also have a hand in this.

The third reasons could have been plain ignorance as to what the event was all about. I can believe that. “Hour of Code” by itself doesn’t explain much unless you already have an idea what CODE is all about. I plan to do an informal survey on this the next time I am up and about. Wonder how many kids and parents in Alton actually equate ‘code’ say with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, video games and GPS. That could have been a problem.

javascriptex

Click to ENLARGE. A little snippet of JavaScript. This could have got 8th graders slightly more engaged.

The fourth reason was the one that I was concerned about. The ‘blocky’-based drag-and-drop ‘programs’ really might have been too simplistic for 8th graders. Obama, as can be seen above, did a bit of good ol’ JavaScript. I think the 8th graders should have been given the chance to learn some procedural code.

BASIC used to be such a great way to teach youngsters the basics of coding. BASIC is available and if I had my way that is what I would have pitched to 8th graders — and YES, I have taught computer programming for money (even to post-graduate students at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)). So I do know a little bit about this.

Tomorrow Grades 3 & 4 have their turn. I gather more kids have signed up. Teischan is one of them and she has already done probably close to an hour of code on her own.

In the end this is no big deal one way or another. Good opportunity but if kids miss it now they can still learn coding down the road.

I, in 1969, aged 16 started taking my lessons in programming in Britain. First year it was offered. Changed my life. Two years prior I have never even heard the word computer growing up in a poor, third-world country. So yes I am kind of biased about the possible benefits of learning to code.