North Dakota became the first state on Friday, it says, to host a simultaneous Hour of Code between K-12 and higher-ed students across the state. The state’s participation in the global event that was first held in 2013 demonstrates one instance of increased attention to computer science education.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said that computer science knowledge will prepare students for tomorrow’s workforce and economy. “Teaching students 21st-century technology skills like coding can help them succeed in any career, and we celebrate the thousands of students, educators, administrators, and volunteers who are participating in Hour of Code,” he said in a press release.
Held at nearly 100 schools with more than 6,000 participating K-12 and university students, North Dakota’s coordinated Hour of Code celebrates computer science week. The event is supported by the state government, local education leaders and Microsoft. “We want as many students as possible to have a hands-on opportunity for coding through the Hour of Code, and we appreciate Governor Burgum, CIO Riley and Superintendent Baesler for their strong support to make North Dakota’s first statewide Hour of Code possible,” said Taya Spelhaug, a Microsoft executive.
Hour of Code, started by Code.org, introduces students to computer science with fun and engaging coding activities designed to teach anyone to code and is hosted in more than 180 countries during computer science education week. Nationally, the U.S. has seen a grassroots movement bring computer science into the K-12 system. According to Code.org, 20 states have passed laws or initiatives to support computer science since January 2018, and since 2015, states have collectively allocated over $87 million for computer science.
North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said, “Public opinion surveys say a large majority of parents believe it is almost as important for their children to know computer science, and be able to write code, as it is for them to be able to read, write and do mathematics.”
In fact, according to a 2018 Microsoft study, 50 percent of parents surveyed said they believe coding and computer programming to be the most beneficial subjects to their child’s future employability, and 86 percent believe technology is beneficial to their child’s education. “Computer science skills are key competencies for students to learn because technology skills will be essential to their success in pursuing good paying jobs and thriving in their careers,” Spelhaug said.
This state says this year’s Hour of Code event also reflects North Dakota’s broader statewide effort to promote technology education. Gov. Burgum has initiatives to educate the entire state’s student population —kindergarten through Ph.D. — on cybersecurity. Codenamed the K-20W initiative (for kindergartners to doctoral candidates plus workforce), the state’s vision for cybersecurity education has brought together more than 40 organizations from the public and private sector with the goal of building a 21st-century workforce, according to the state. North Dakota has also drafted integrated cyber science K-12 standards to provide institutions with rigorous and content-appropriate educational framework.
“North Dakota students are excited to explore the world of computer science,” Riley said in the press release. “We are proud to partner with Microsoft and Code.org to amplify the importance of these skills in a world where technology knowledge from coding to cybersecurity is valuable regardless of career path.”