What’s the impact of the Hour of Code? It goes way beyond an Hour
Code.org has just released an interesting survey about their Hour of Code initiative. They’ve been criticized for providing only an hour and overly focusing on puzzles (see Mitchel Resnick’s article here). The results suggest that they’re reaching a diverse audience, and having an effect beyond an hour — students keep going, and teachers start teaching CS.
Programming is a literacy, and no one develops any kind of literacy in just an hour of practice. Games are not the most interesting and powerful kinds of programming activities.
But they’re a start. Particularly when we get past the Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect of thinking about students as being like us. We know from many studies that students are afraid of computer programming. I’m teaching Media Computation again this semester, and at least a third of the students who have come talk to me after class have started their conversation with, “I’m one of those people who just don’t do computers.” And that’s just those self-reporting without prompting! Students associate CS with being a geek and wouldn’t want to let their friends know they like computer science, even if they do. Few students get any kind of computer science education outside of Hour of Code.
When we think about most people, sustained activity in programming for one hour can go a long way to reducing fear, increasing self-efficacy, and nurturing interest. (Consider an Hour of Code compared to less than <5 minutes typically spent at a museum exhibit.) Games are a useful place to start because they’re well-structured. Aptitude-treatment interaction tells us that more structure is better with students who have less background in a subject. Open-ended, constructionist activities like those that Mitchel is promoting are more successful with more privileged students, those who have more experience which results in higher-ability students. The Hour of Code can help inspire students to get that additional experience needed to develop more ability.) An Hour of Code is a good first step for the remedial state of computing education in the United States today.
Hooray for Hour of Code, and thanks to Code.org for promoting it and for sharing these data.
The onus is on us to turn the Hour of Code into a Lifetime of Computational Literacy.
After the Hour of Code, we asked participating organizers how it went and got some fantastic news for our field.
- 98% had a good or great experience.
- 85% of those new to computer science said the Hour of Code increased their interest in teaching computer science.
- 49% said they plan to continue teaching computer science beyond one hour.
- 18% said they began teaching computer science after a previous Hour of Code campaign!
- 87% said their students did more than just one hour of coding.