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‘A little revolution’ of over 14,000 responses to the UM call for Hour of Code

December 13, 2013 — 

In Manitoba, almost 15,000 students were writing code this week, usually for the first time. Worldwide, 3 million students across almost 20,000 schools, in 150 countries participated in what’s being called “the largest learning event in history.”

The promotion was called Hour of Code, and it took place in conjunction with the annual computer science education week, running this year from Dec. 9 to 15. As head of the department of computer science John Anderson says, “It amounts to doing an hour on basic computer programming and promoting the field, right down to elementary schools.”

The computer science outreach committee promoted the event to get local students to participate — and over 14,000 students from across the Winnipeg area signed up for it through the department’s website, including some entire schools.

Christina Penner, who’s an instructor in the department, led the local initiative to promote the event. “The purpose of the event was to educate everyone on the importance of computer programming,” she says.

She calls coding a new type of literacy, one that should be a part of the curriculum in every school.

“You can learn more from the Hour of Code website, watch a 2-minute video, or try programming yourself using a tutorial.”

Penner also volunteered her time in her nephew’s Grade 5 classroom, and was bowled over by their enthusiastic response.

“Watching the kids learn about programming for the very first time was nothing short of amazing,” she says.

“The students were literally jumping up and shouting ‘I love this,’ ‘this is fun,’ ‘we don’t know how to do this,’ followed by ‘it worked!'”

Penner notes that programming isn’t usually taught in schools. “Frankly, very few teachers know about programming and even fewer know how to program.

“So this morning, in the midst of all that excitement, a little revolution was happening. It was like sharing a new alphabet for the first time. I just hope that those kids will have a chance to use their new programming  alphabet again. Programming is a powerful language rife with political and practical power — and we need to introduce it to all children.”

See the previous UM Today story on the importance of coding education for Penner and the Hour of Code here.


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