My son came home the other day and went straight to the iMac we have set up in our living room. I watched him as he loaded Chrome to make sure he was headed somewhere kid-friendly. He typed in “Code.org” to the address bar.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Just games. I’ll show you.” He replied enthusiastically.
A game loads up. It’s called Spelling Bee. There is a grid of letters, and a bee – the idea is to move the bee to the correct letters to spell out the word they’d given you. You must drag and drop blocks in the workspace, each with an arrow on it. When you have all your arrows with the directions to move your bee in the workspace, you click run. The bee follows the directions you set up in your workspace and if you did it correctly, you move on to the next puzzle.
The Spelling Bee game
As someone who has spent much of her career working with various web codes, I recognized right away what this game was doing. It was teaching my son to think like a coder. I was so excited.
Code.org was launched in 2013 with the clear intent to give easy and free access to computer science education to those who might not otherwise get it. Their vision is to diversify the computer sciences and they hope to draw in more women and minorities.
This is a nonprofit organization backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Google, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Nintendo, Facebook and more.
There are courses with professionally written-up curriculums and teacher’s resources to lead their class as they learn to code. There are fun games associated with recognizable brands such as Star Wars, Angry Birds and Frozen. Kids, even really young ones, have no trouble navigating how to progress through the courses and levels.
The greatest thing about this, though, is that it is truly fun and enjoyable for the kids. They don’t even realize they are learning something. When I explained to my son what he was learning, he had no idea what I was talking about. I told him that if he kept learning this stuff, he could grow up one day and design video games or apps or even program robots. He has not stopped talking about the games he will design since.
Every year, Code.org promotes the Hour of Code. Each student who signs up does one hour of learning code. The lessons they’ve created for an Hour of Code are so accessible that any age can participate, and it is available in over 30 languages. The site also says that there is no previous experience required and the activities are self-guided. The idea is to expose someone new to code and computer science.
President Obama does the Hour of Code:
Here’s Bill Gates expanding on how if statements are used in Code.org games:
I could not be happier that my son is being introduced to computer science and code so early. I only wish I had had something like this when I was his age. If you have not already, get your kids on Code.org and start their computer science learning with fun.
Have you used Code.org? What did you think of it?