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Hall students try hand at computer coding
Hour was part of international movement to increase access to computer science lessons
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Enrique Medina, 13, works on a coding exercise during Hour of Code at East Hall Middle School on Wednesday. Hour of Code is an international movement started three years ago by the nonprofit Code.org to increase student access to computer science lessons. - photo by Erin O. Smith

What do Ashton Kutcher, Bill Gates, Shakira and an East Hall Middle School seventh-grader have in common?

They’ve all done an Hour of Code.

Hour of Code is an international movement started three years ago by the nonprofit Code.org to increase student access to computer science lessons. This year, the movement is taking place this week, and students at East Hall Middle School are participating.

“This is a worldwide movement,” said Jennifer Parker, media specialist at the school. “Last year we did it in the seventh-grade math class, but this year we’re doing it in the social studies class because we’re going to talk about supply and demand. And social studies is all about the world, and code has definitely changed our world.”

Students in eighth grade at the school did an hour of code Tuesday, while seventh-graders participated Wednesday. Sixth-graders will get their chance this Friday.

Students Wednesday watched a video about how the movement works to increase participation by minority and female students in computer programming. The purpose, according to the video, is to increase the number of students taking computer sciences to make the number of careers being made in the field.

“There is a crisis,” Parker said. “Not enough students are going into computer science in college, and there is a very, very big job demand.”

Parker said, according to Code.org, only 2 percent of students who earn a degree in a math or science get their degree in computer science. But 60 percent of careers in mathematics or sciences are computer science jobs.

“There is a big disparity,” she said. “This is trying to figure out why kids and young people are not exploring this.”

Code.org estimates by 2020, the year eighth-graders today will graduate from high school, there will be 400,000 students graduating with computer science degrees and 1.4 million jobs in the field.

Hour of Code allowed students at East Hall to try “block coding.” Students were able to choose from eight activities, including “Minecraft” game, “Angry Birds,” “Flappy Bird” and “Frozen” games, designed to teach the basics of coding.

Seventh-grader Allie Ladd coded the “Star Wars” game, writing eight lines of code to make the robotic character BB-8 collect scrap metal and move to the next level.

Her classmate Ana Leigh Whitfield worked on a game of puzzles, drawing shapes using lines of code.

As of Wednesday, 166. 7 million students across the world had participated in Hour of Code.

“The goal this year is 200 million students,” Parker told her students. “All of you in this room today are part of the 200 million students across the world that are trying coding for an hour.”

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