Monday, November 28, 2016

Hour of Code

With tears streaming down my face, I delivered the bitter-sweet news, choking on the explanation. I’d been accepted into an internship program for the next year--my senior year--and would have to forgo the second year of Computer Science in order to be a student intern for a French and English teacher at a nearby middle school.

“But Christina, this is what you want: To teach. French and English. At high school. You’ll get to test-drive your dream before committing money and years to study, perhaps only to realize that you’d rather do something else” Mr. Schram reasoned.

“But I’ve successfully written more lines of code than any of the boys in class! Plus, I’d planned to be your lab assistant during my off period.” The strained silence persisted until, accepting what I knew to be true, I meekly excused myself and walked away.

Being the daughter of an engineer with 26-years at Texas Instruments, I grew up learning to use a computer at a time when 8 megabytes of RAM was an impressive amount of memory. Smart phones, tablets, and wearables were the stuff of science fiction. People didn’t take their computers to the Genius Bar to be repaired because most people didn’t even have a computer. Daddy and his colleagues WERE the Geek Squad, and repairs were negotiated through bartering, creating an elaborate economy of favors. This was my ordinary world, and it is only recently, as a seasoned educator, that I’ve realized that I was privileged.

Computers are now everywhere, used by everybody, everyday. While using them is all but unavoidable, a deep understanding and knowledge of Computer Science is not, and the stereotypical Geek Squad of old is in need of a makeover to better include women, minorities, and anyone for whom a lucrative high-tech career might seem like a distant dream:
  • Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are ten times more likely to major in it in college, and Black and Hispanic students are seven times more likely.
  • A computer science major can earn 40% more than the average college graduate.
  • Computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in the United States. These jobs are in every industry in every state, and they’re projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.

Hour of Code originated as a humble sixty-minute introduction to computer science, demonstrating that anybody can learn the basics. It has since grown into a global Computer Science Education Week event supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators.

No participant in Hour of Code will go from novice to expert programmer in the span of an hour. But between December 5th and 11th 2016, she can get a taste, a glimpse, an inkling of what she could do and say “Hello World” to something new.