30 Nov 2015
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Microsoft's Hour of Code on its way

By Shannon Williams

The annual Hour of Code campaign is on its way as part of Computer Science Education Week, held 7-13 December.

Thousands of New Zealand students around the country will have the chance to participate in the campaign, which sees students learn coding via online tutorials at Code.org.

The campaign comes from Microsoft New Zealand, who has partnered with computer education groups including OMGTech!, Code Club and the High Tech Youth Network.

Amongst the activities available this year is a computer coding tutorial inspired by the popular online building game, Minecraft. The tutorial introduces players to basic coding within the fun and familiar environment of the Minecraft world.

Other tutorials on the Code.org site are based around characters from the Star Wars movies and the hit animated motion picture, Frozen.

Nigel Parker, director of Developer Experience for Microsoft New Zealand, says more educators have realised how vital it is for students to learn computer skills in a world with fast developing technology.

“As technology becomes an increasingly integral part of people's daily lives, there’s a growing demand – from students, parents, teachers and governments – to teach youth how to use technology,” he says. ”Learning how to create technology to help them become the innovators and drivers of growth and opportunity in their communities.

“I have noticed with my nine-year-old daughter that learning computer science and technology concepts helps her build critical skills like computational thinking and problem solving,” says Parker. “She completed the Minecraft tutorial on Code.org and has an active interest in science due, in part, to her participation in OMGTech! events. She actively finds science experiments on the Internet that we complete together and she prints her own designs on the 3D printer at our local library,” he says.

Dr Michelle Dickinson, co-founder of OMGTech! and Board Member for Code Club Aotearoa, says coding is not just a language for computer programmers.

“We want to showcase that anyone can learn to code and you don't need to be good at science or math to learn it,” she says. “By understanding how your computer works we can be empowered to not only read and use technology but also write and create technology to help shape our future.”

Dickinson says OMGTech! and Code Club will be running a range of activities in several schools around Auckland and hosting events around the country.

Concurrent to the Hour of Code campaign activities, the High Tech Youth Network have young people aged 8-25 from across its 10 studios focused on in-depth coding skills, using industry coding software and being mentored by coders from across the ICT sector.

Keu Iorangi, associate director of Learning for the High Tech Youth Network, says that their group is so enthusiastic about the Hour of Code campaign that it is planning to incorporate Code.org into focused events for youth over the coming year.

Educators and parents are encouraged to invite students and children to do the Minecraft tutorial, or by contacting one of Microsoft’s partner groups about attending a live Hour of Code workshop.

“If you want to advocate for more computer science education in our schools you can add your voice to the thousands that are already calling for it,” says Parker.

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