Monday, December 22, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;32.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/novc.png;2014-12-22 06:10:06
Monday, December 9, 2013

In Wilton, the Hour of Code will be a geek-a-thon

David Brooks

Amy White is the first to admit that she’s no code jockey, to use a term from my past: “A little HTML, the simple stuff – that’s all I can do.” But she’s hoping a few code jockeys may emerge in Wilton after this week’s Hour of Code sweeps through.

“I’m a huge proponent of getting technology in the school,” said White, a librarian at Wilton/Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle and High School. “But I’m not a geek.” ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

Amy White is the first to admit that she’s no code jockey, to use a term from my past: “A little HTML, the simple stuff – that’s all I can do.” But she’s hoping a few code jockeys may emerge in Wilton after this week’s Hour of Code sweeps through.

“I’m a huge proponent of getting technology in the school,” said White, a librarian at Wilton/Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle and High School. “But I’m not a geek.”

A good way to describe White, who is a friend of mine, is “geek enabler,” which is why WLC is one of just a few schools in Greater Nashua to participate in The Hour of Code – meaning code as in writing software, not hiding messages.

Such a role, it turns out, isn’t unusual for her job: “Librarians are a lot of time functioning as technology integrators in schools, on an unofficial basis,” she said.

White found out about the Hour of Code after starting up a Coding Club at the school, in response to interest from students.

The Hour of Code will be happening all week at thousands of schools around the country as part of Computer Science Education Week (which, I’m delighted to see, is timed to honor the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who has the most interesting life story of any American software pioneer).

The Hour of Code uses tutorials and programs to get people excited about coding, using modules reminiscent of simplified programming applications like Lego Mindstorms or even, for the old-timers out there, Logo and its turtle graphics.

There’s drag-and-drop and video tutorials, representations of languages like Python and Java, some paper-and-pencil work for people who don’t have access to a computer, and lots of tips for teachers to keep the process going.

It promises “no math needed,” and involves people much cooler than Bill Gates saying you should participate (the promotional video includes will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat).

What’s the point? Fear of losing our technical edge – and jobs, of course – to China.

The Hour of Code was developed because of a looming shortfall of computer scientists in the U.S., as least as measured by computer-science college student.

By 2020, according to code.org, the website for Hour of Code, there will be 400,000 computer science students in the United States but 1.4 million computer science jobs.

Part of the problem is that the burst of American geekery that built Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128 are getting long in the tooth.

“It’s a good idea to repopulate the older coding group,” said Bruce Ballou, technology coordinator for WLC, who puts himself in that classification. Hour of Code is a step in that direction, he said: “If nothing else , we’ll see who wants to pursue it more.”

The small Wilton/Lyndeborough school (fewer than 400 students in grades 6 through 12) isn’t the first place you might think of for a frenzy of coding, since it doesn’t have software classes or a high-profile geek quotient. Nonetheless, as of this writing, it is one of the very few area schools participating, along with Nashua’s Charlotte Avenue Elementary and the Academy and Science of Design.

You can thank the geek enabler for that.

As for Ballou, he has just one worry, spurred some by the results of a certain large-scale online launch.

“I just hope their website can handle it – not like healthcare.gov,” he said.

GraniteGeek appears Mondays in The Telegraph. David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@granitegeek).