Students learn to write code

FAIRMONT – What began as an attempt to get students more involved in computer science has exploded worldwide, with 150 Fairmont Junior-Senior High School students joining millions of others in the weeklong “Hour of Code” campaign.

The endeavor, held in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week from Dec. 9-15, had an original goal of 5 million students learning at least one hour of computer science in the seven-day span. Midway through the week, more than 10 million students in 170 countries had participated, writing well over a quarter billion lines of code.

Mandy Fletcher, computer applications instructor at Fairmont Area Schools, involved the 150 students in her five class sections on Friday.

“Computer science is a very, very underexposed area in schools,” she said.

Only one school in 10 teaches coding.

“This contributes to the problem of not preparing you for all the jobs that are open,” Fletcher told her class. “Programmers are everywhere. They’re needed everywhere.”

China requires every student to study computer programming to graduate. No schools in the United States have that graduation requirement, Fletcher said.

“Hour of Code,” launched by the non-profit, provided an online tutorial. The website offers lessons in computer coding for every age group. Students can log in at home.

Hadi Partovi of noted that by Tuesday more than 60 percent of students logging onto the website were girls. Before the campaign, the number of girls doing computer science in the United States was 18 percent.

More students in the country had participated in computer science during the first three days of “Hour of Code” than had participated in the last century.

“Hour of Code” provides exposure to how coding works, Fletcher told her students.

“It’s not intimidating. You can learn it,” she said.

She told her students to “play around with this and see what it’s all about” and challenged them to build their own app for their smartphones.

“Hour of Code” is endorsed and promoted by Microsoft founder Bill Gates; Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder; President Obama; and, founder of the Black Eyed Peas.