Talking to Bill Gates and the Hour of Code

There are some days when everything clicks and there are other days when everything goes wrong.  Then there are those days like I’ve had this week which are indescribable.  It kicked off on Monday when, as a part of the Hour of Code created by, my students had the opportunity to video conference with Bill Gates.  It was one of the most surreal and incredible experiences of my short teaching career.  The kids got to watch one of the icons of technology and communicate with him.  When my school asked their questions Bill Gates was looking right at the kids.  He was seeing them. 


            When I first started telling people I was going to participate in the Hour of Code I had a few words of encouragement, but I think most people were confused as to why a Language Arts teacher would want to teach kids how to code or program.  To me it is very simple; computer code is like learning any language.  It has syntax and grammar and should be taught at an early age like any other language.  Technology is so engrained in every facet of our lives that it has become imperative to know the building blocks that make the world function.


            I was fortunate to grow up in a technology rich household.  My dad has been working with computers for as long as I can remember.  My first computer was a Commodore 64.  I remember the huge floppy disks and battle chess.  I remember the smells that permeated every inch of the store room where the computer equipment was stored.  I remember writing my first piece of computer code.  It was a program that would count to 100.  I thought I was a genius.  Especially when I figured out how to make it continue to count indefinitely.  Those are experiences I want to share with my students.


            So in spite of the fact that I’m “just a Language Arts teacher” I decided to take the journey with my students and participate in the Hour of Code and it was one of the most rewarding things I have done.  The tutorials and games are fun and I was glad to see the kids were engaged.  I heard a lot of “this is awesome” and “this is so cool.”  But the highlight was seeing kids looking over at other kids and saying “have you tried this? What if you tried it this way? Did you know it could do this?”  I ceased being a teacher and took the role of facilitator and tour guide on the journey of computer programming.


            Those moments don’t happen every day.  For now I’m just going to savor the energy and hype generated by my students today.  They are awesome!