Isaiah Reed never considered how playing “Angry Birds” was like baking cookies until Monday.
“You have to think straight,” explained Reed, 8. “In your mind, you have to see how the bird should turn right or left, and tell the computer that. It’s like when Mom tells me what to put in the bowl.”
Reed and the rest of his second-grade Hawthorne Elementary School class moused their way into that realization during the “Hour of Coding” workshop taking place this week across the nation.
Instead of visually flinging birds at silly pigs, they had to build sets of directions – code – for the computer to obey.
“Everyone should know a little code,” Hawthorne librarian Michele Nokleby said. “It’s like listening to stories without knowing how to read or write at all.”
Code.org developed tutorials for all age levels in 180 countries and 30 languages to expand the number of people aware of how computers work from the inside. It provided video introductions from heavyweight coders like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.
“The Hour of Code is a campaign to prove that regardless of age, race or gender, anyone can learn how to not just consume, but build the technologies of the future,” Sentinel High School computer science teacher Dave Hamilton said in an email.
Every second-grader in the Hawthorne library could click a program icon on the screen and run a program. Coding exposes them to the creativity behind the screen.
At the second-grade level, Reed got to tell his Angry Bird how many steps to go forward, which way to turn and advance again to get through more and more complex mazes.
Older students would add in the logical choices of “if-then,” “repeat” and more refined coding directions to handle bigger challenges.
Missoula students at Sentinel High and Hawthorne and Lewis and Clark elementary schools are all taking part in the coding exercises this week.
Nokleby said the program has been active among adults and teens, but only recently got retooled for young children. Ironically, that may have exposed a classic computer problem as second-graders across the country logged into the Code.org website.
“This is taking forever,” 8-year-old Bridger Rose said as the computer balked reading his seven-command program. But limitations of Missoula County Public Schools' Internet bandwidth and an international website debut appeared to bog down the lesson.
Rose fell back on the perfect response to a slow computer: He read a book.