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If a 90-Year-Old Can Learn to Code, What's Your Excuse? If a 90-Year-Old Can Learn to Code, What's Your Excuse?

If a 90-Year-Old Can Learn to Code, What's Your Excuse?

by Leslie Aaronson
December 12, 2013


The data says there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science in the year 2020 but we only have 400,000 students enrolled in computer science classes. That's why on Monday every student at Los Angeles' Foshay Tech Academy—and a large percentage of all students at Foshay, a K-12 school in the Los Angeles Unified School District—completed the Hour of Code.

If you are unfamiliar with the Hour of Code check out the two-minute video below and notice that even Google (!) dedicated its doodle on Monday to the Hour of Code:

The goal is to get 10 million students to code for an hour this week—the site is up to over 3 million participants—and Foshay contributed to at least a few hundred of those students.

Coding is not new to the Foshay Tech Academy students. In their three years together the students have learned to script using HTML, create projects using App Inventor and Scratch, program Robotics using LEGO Mindstorm, and take courses on Code Academy. However, what we did on Monday was special. The 10th graders programmed the LightBot robot and the enthusiasm and energy were palpable. Some of the best student quotes included: "OMG this is so hard....wait! I just figured it out!;" ""I was so lost...but you know what, I am beginning to like it;" "This is what learning feels like." The happy dances and high fives were also fun.

The juniors and seniors in the tech academy took on more advanced challenges—like programming an iPhone App to compare with their experience using App Inventor. This challenge proved a bit frustrating because they were not able to see if the program worked due to LAUSD firewall issues. However, we course corrected and used Processing.org  to create images that the students coded from scratch using rectangles and ellipses for shapes and strokes and fills for color.

You can see the students hard work on our website or see our tweets. Like this:

You will also see some of the great preparation work we did with teaching the parents at our school, three of whom had never touched a mouse before, let alone coded. One of our participants was 90-years-old, proving that you're never too old to learn. The parents went home and told their children about how much fun it was for them to learn and work through the problem solving process of reviewing and revising their programs—also known as trial and error.

Now that we have completed our commitment to the Hour of Code, we are paying it forward. On Tuesday, my students are hosting other classes in our computer lab to help them experience coding. We challenge you to take a moment to check it out—or even better—introduce it to a child, student, friend, family member or a colleague. Just go to Code.org.

Perhaps if people were introduced to computer science earlier there would be more people entering this career field. Or on a small scale, a student will realize that trial and error is how we learn success. It is how we problem solve. It is how we learn.

Click here to say you believe every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code.

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