You know what’s cool? When a bunch of geeks who know how wield a camera, brandish social media, and reach the eyeballs of the populous, harness their power to get a message out in order to exact positive change in a short period of time. During Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15), Code.org founders Ali and Hadi Partovi rallied the world to encourage everyone and anyone to spend one hour learning to code.
It was an amazing success. During the week they pushed us to participate in the Hour of Code, students worldwide wrote 500,000,000 lines of code (Microsoft Windows contains 50 million lines), one in five US students wrote code, and more girls participated in computer science than in the last 70 years. It took Tumblr, 3.5 years to get to 15 million users. It took Facebook 3 years to hit that number. The Hour of Code? Five days. I think that makes this campaign successful enough to be a hopeful indicator that – with the continued help of motivated geeks – we can alter the rather embarrassing fact that most of U.S. schools don’t teach coding, a subject that most adults informed on the subject agree is the literacy of the future. There are, of course, naysayers debating the quality of this success. Did the code work? Did everyone who participated actually finish the hour? Will anyone remember any of what they learned? I think that’s missing the point. The campaign exposed the idea of coding to a lot of people. It changed minds, young minds many of them. Kids who thought coding was hard or who had no idea what it was now know what it is, roughly how it’s done, and where to learn more – even if their code didn’t work the first time. They also know that it’s important to their future and they should learn more about it. Why do you buy one brand over another – even once? Probably because of an ad campaign. No one asks if that campaign was successful or not if you buy a particular brand of gas but never become a car mechanic or if you buy laundry soap and never get around to doing your laundry. All they want is your attention. It was only an hour. And an awesome hour it was. Why not go code a last minute holiday card to celebrate?