President Obama Experiences An Hour of Code
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014

In a event to mark the beginning of this year's Computer Science Education Week, President Obama produced his first ever line of code, with help from a middle-school pupil.

President Obama has been prominent figure in the Hour of Code campaign encouraging school students to engage in computer science. As he did for last year's inaugural Hour of Code, President Obama again recorded a message telling kids:

"Don't just consume things, create things. Take an hour to learn more about the technology that touches every part of our lives. That's how you can prepare yourself with the skills you need for your future. And that's how you can help prepare our country for the future as well."

This year however instead of just talking about learning to code, he tried it himself and ran the following program:

        moveForward(100);

This is the initial line from Code.org's new hour-long coding activity based on the Disney movie Frozen. The tutorial uses Blockly, a drag and drop approach to coding which is then compiled to JavaScript and so President Obama is perpetuating the idea that a scripting language that from humble beginnings is setting out to dominate the future of programming. 

Twenty middle-school pupils from Newark, New Jersey took part in the Hour of Code event at the White House and President Obama was ably guided to his achievement by one of the girl students. She seemed very confident with the programming environment whereas President Obama appeared to be anticipating rocket science.  obamacode

Addressing the group of kids around the table he says:

 "It turns out the concepts are not that complicated”

but then his attempt to explain it adds a layer of complication: 

"The basic concept behind coding is that you take zeros and ones, you take two numbers, yes or no, and those can be translated into electrical messages that then run through the computer."

Luckily Code.org's founder, Hadi Partovi, was on hand to point out that nobody thinks of it in terms of ones and zeros any longer and that these days its normal to express the list of instructions using something much closer to English. 

 

 

President Obama's misconceptions about what is involved in 21st century programming does point up the failings of the educational system with regard to computer science over the past few decades. However, his administration does seem committed to rectifying the situation. Announcements made to coincide with the House of Code event were: 

  • Commitments by more than 60 US school districts, including the seven largest school districts in the country, to offer computer science courses to their students. Together, these districts reach over 4 million students in more than 1,000 high schools and middle schools nationwide.

  • Over $20 million in philanthropic contributions to train 10,000 teachers by Fall 2015 and 25,000 teachers to teach computer science in time for the school year beginning in Fall 2016. 

  • New partnerships by the National Science Foundation (NSF) including a new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science course by the College Board that emphasizes the creative aspects of computing and a focus on real-world applications. 

  • New steps to increase the participation of women and under-represented minorities in computer science, with a new computer science classroom design prize and many innovative outreach efforts. 

 


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 December 2014 )