Hour of Code Comes to Wellesley

December 12, 2013

Computer Science Students, Faculty, Participate in Coding Instruction Event

two students work at a computer in Wellesley library

Ten million new computer programmers: This is the goal of the ambitious Hour of Code campaign, and Wellesley is stepping in to help meet it. Across campus December 11-13, community members (and the public) are invited to participate in the Hour of Code, a series of activities designed to encourage those unfamiliar with programming to try their hand at it.

According to Code.org, computer science jobs are a top-paying employment opportunities, and their numbers are growing at twice the national average. Despite this, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a computer science degree. It is estimated that of the 0.7 percent of high schoolers who take Advanced Placement computer science courses, women represent less than 15 percent and students of color average about 8 percent.

The Hour of Code is a campaign organized by Code.org in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, which seeks to broaden the number of people who are computationally literate. The awareness week is scheduled each year to coincide with the birthdays of two pioneering female programmers, Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. For Hour of Code, celebrities and public figures from singer Shakira and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to President Barack Obama encouraged young people (and others) to spend one hour learning more about computer programming, which they collectively describe as the language of the future.

At Wellesley, enrollment in computer science courses is soaring. The number of majors has more than doubled in the last two years, and course enrollment amongst non-majors is up 50 percent. The department’s interdisciplinary courses partner with other fields, like music and neuroscience, to offer students insight to the diverse ways one can use computer science.

Wellesley's Computer Science Department partnered with Library and Technology Services to host Hour of Code events during reading period. More than 20 computer science students are volunteering their time during reading period to lead 36 hours of coding over three days in four locations. When visitors stop by the coding stalls in the campus center, Pendleton Hall, the Science Center, or Clapp Library, they can choose from a variety of programming activities designed to be easy to learn and fun to try. These activities use “block programming,” or visual programming languages, which are the field of expertise of Associate Professor of Computer Science Franklyn Turbak.

“Blocks languages lower barriers for novices by eliminating or reducing many common programming errors and by providing visual guidance for choosing, assembling, and understanding program structures,” explained Turbak. “With these systems, it's reasonable to expect that anyone can start doing simple but compelling programming activities in a few minutes, and can learn some fundamental computational thinking concepts within an hour.”

We asked members of Wellesley’s computer science community to share why they were excited about Hour of Code.

Wellesley on Why Hour of Code Is Important

“Coding is a skill, like writing, painting, or cooking. Some do it better than others, but to steal a line from the movie Ratatouille, 'anyone can cook.' The Hour of Code is a wonderful way for many people to try coding for a little while, to see if they like it. Scott Anderson, Senior Lecturer, Computer Science

“Many of my friends here at Wellesley can’t wrap their head around why I’m always at my computer typing what they perceive to be gibberish and why I would be perfectly content doing that all day long. Hour of Code will hopefully persuade some of my friends to at least try a computer science course and make the material both exciting and approachable for them.”
—Monica Starr Feldman '14, Computer Science (major), Economics (minor).

“Coding a computer is an act of creativity. I and others compare writing beautiful programs that make abstract ideas come alive on our screen to the act of writing poetry and fiction. This is why computer science needs to be a part of the liberal education of every college student. It's not about becoming computer scientists, it's about the joy of creation and the journey to get there.”
Eni Mustafaraj, Visiting Lecturer, Computer Science

“The Hour of Code is important to me because it has the potential to teach everyone about how programming works. Programming shouldn't be a mystery because it's fun and inventive. I love computer science and am very fortunate to have learned to code early on in my education. People say coding is for boys who love video games; however, I think it's for anyone and everyone who wants to make something happen.” —Cali Elise Stenson '17, Undeclared

“What is computer science about? Contrary to popular misconceptions, it has little to do with computers and familiarity with popular computer applications. Rather, it's about 'computational thinking,' a 21st century literacy on par with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Computational thinking encompasses notions like understanding systems at multiple levels of abstraction, representing information, developing and analyzing algorithms to solve problems of varying complexity, and appreciating the impact that computing has had on all aspects of modern society. An informed citizenry and workforce needs to employ computational thinking concepts when solving problems or understanding complex systems in many domains. Additionally, people who manipulate digital artifacts like web pages, images, and spreadsheets are finding it increasingly necessary to do some programming. It is estimated that for every professional software developer there are four people who write programs but aren’t considered software developers. The Hour of Code exposes people to computational thinking in the context of developing algorithms—i.e., computational recipes—to solve simple problems or to design and implement creative artifacts and apps.”
Franklyn Turbak, Associate Professor of Computer Science

“Hour of Code is exciting for me because it creates an opportunity for students from all disciplines to explore computer science in a fun and unintimidating way.  I'm particularly excited about the AppInventor tutorial because AppInventor is the first program I ever used and is the reason I continued my CS studies past one intro level course.”
—Talia Marcus '15, Psychology (major), Computer Science (minor)


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