Goshen students learn basics of computer programming

A boy wears headphones and works on a computer.
Cesar Sanchez participates in Hour of Code.

Goshen Central School District students in grades K-8 joined more than 100 million students from around the world to learn the fundamentals of computer programming with the Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries. Noted as one of the largest learning events in history, the Hour of Code is held in celebration of Computer Science Education Week.

Boy with headphones on computer.
David Schmitt uses code to place blocks in Minecraft.

So what is code? Quite simply, code is a set of step-by-step instructions given to a computer to make it perform a desired action. Computers, apps, smart phones – they all run by code.

Code is traditionally text-based; many people have heard of JavaScript, the world’s most widely used coding language. However, students used the more age-appropriate Blockly Games during Hour of Code. Blockly, a Google project designed to encourage tomorrow’s programmers, uses block-based visual coding students can drag and drop on their computer screens to write programs.

For example, students use Blockly to move an ice skating Elsa (from Disney’s Frozen) in specific patterns on the ice. A student’s computer screen is split into three parts – on the left, she can see Elsa on the ice and the directions for what shape Elsa must make. The middle area is the student’s toolbox; this is where the blocks of code are located that give commands that Elsa will understand. The space on the right, the workspace, is where the student builds her program. She must figure out which blocks of code to use and in what order as she moves and turns Elsa on the ice.

Smiling girl working on laptop.
Halle Firman uses a laptop and headphones while participating in Hour of Code.

This teaches the basics of code – the concepts she’s learning are the same concepts that computer programmers use every day and are the foundations of computer science. Even top universities teach block-based coding, such as Berkeley and Harvard.

The Hour of Code is organized by Code.org, a public non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the College Board all support the Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code believes that every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. According to the Hour of Code website, computer science helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path. For more information, visit www.hourofcode.com.