Students everywhere count down the hours to ‘Hour of Code’

It’s just one hour. But it’s an hour that could change young lives forever, and help guide them to a better future. That’s why Microsoft is challenging as many young people as possible to participate in the “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 9-15.

“Hour of Code” is an introduction to computer science, and if those two words – “computer science” – scare or intrigue you, consider taking part. “Hour of Code” is aimed at demystifying “code” and showing that anyone can learn the basics. Anyone. (Yes, adults, you are absolutely encouraged to participate, too!)

The program is sponsored by Code.org, the nonprofit organization that Microsoft is a founding member of, which is dedicated to “growing computer science education by making it available in more schools.”

Nearly 29,000 events are planned in 160 countries, events that will reach an estimated 4 million students, with Microsoft employees participating in many of them around the world.

“A computer science education is a ticket to upward mobility, and every student deserves to have access to it,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Research.

“Hour of Code allows us to reach students, engage them and show how fun programming can be. I am proud that Microsoft’s tools will play an important role in doing this.”

Among those tools are the Kodu Game Lab and TouchDevelop. Kodu is a visual programming language from Microsoft Research that makes it easy for students to create games, characters and landscapes. (You can learn more about Kodu and Hour of Code here.) TouchDevelop lets anyone create mobile apps and games on any smartphone, tablet or PC. (See video above.)

You can write scripts simply by tapping on the screen, and you can share your scripts on the TouchDevelop website or submit them to the Windows Store or the Windows Phone Store.

Among those from Microsoft Research who will be out at schools next week is Rane Johnson-Stempson, Microsoft Research’s education and scholarly communication principal research director.

She will be in central Oregon at the Culver School District middle school and high school. She also plans to return later in the month to do programming with students in sixth through ninth grade, and to meet with 93 middle-school girls “to give them exposure to computer science research and the importance of User Experience Design.”

So many times, she says, young people – especially girls – “only hear about the difficult tasks of programming and algorithms; they don’t hear about the art, creativity and problem solving required to ensure an application meets the end user’s needs.”

Computer Science Education Week, an annual program organized by Code.org and the Computing in the Core coalition, is held at this time of year in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, born Dec. 9, 1906.

Microsoft retail stores around the country also will host customized events to kick off Computer Science Education Week and support Hour of Code. Each store will create its own experience to drive awareness of the goal of giving every student the opportunity to learn computer science. Check out the activities in your area by visiting Microsoft Store events information here.

Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, started in September 2012, is another program that focuses year-round on computer science education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people.

“Technology is now, more than ever, a great equalizer for 21st century jobs,” wrote Lori Forte Harnick, Microsoft’s general manager for citizenship and public affairs in a September 2013 blog post about YouthSpark’s first year.

Computer programming jobs, she said, “are growing at two times the national average in the U.S., yet less than 2.4 percent of college students are graduating with a degree in computer science. And, of course, there are still many youth without the digital literacy skills that are required for employment in most workplaces around the world. In light of this continued mismatch between skills and jobs, we are increasing our efforts to bring technology education to youth.”

Microsoft strongly supports efforts to expand access to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education and classes, and applauds efforts underway in numerous states to allow computer science courses to count toward high school graduation requirements. Right now, most states do not allow high school computer science classes to count towards graduation requirements.

Through the YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft is committed to providing young people around the world with access to computer science education through digital literacy programs such as TEALS — Technology Education And Literacy in Schools — DigiGirlz and the Imagine Cup, as well as its partnership with Code.org. (To read Microsoft’s YouthSpark stories from around the world, visit this page, and visit the YouthSpark Hub to learn more about Microsoft’s digital literacy curriculum.)

In the U.S., in YouthSpark’s second year, Microsoft’s TEALS expansion is more than doubling the number of high schools where software engineers are helping to teach basic and advanced computer science courses. TEALS now includes 70 schools in 12 states.

Through those programs and others, including Office 365 Education, Skype in the Classroom and Partners in Learning, Microsoft has expanded digital inclusion and access to technology and training for 78.6 million youth; inspired and empowered 14.9 million future innovators through tools, mentorships and events; and increased employability and entrepreneurial skills opportunities for 9.9 million young adults.

You can read more about Microsoft’s involvement with “Hour of Code” in this post by Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft, and learn more about “Hour of Code” itself at Code.org.

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Suzanne Choney  
Microsoft News Center Staff