Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 08:51am

A statewide Hour of Code is planned with dozens of school districts on Thursday, Dec. 12 as part of a nationwide, annual event hosted by Code.org. Held in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week and coordinated by Microsoft, the event is part of a broader effort to give students of all ages opportunities to learn about coding and computer science as foundational 21st century skills.

“Teaching coding, computer science and other technology skills to today’s students will help them succeed in tomorrow’s economy while also addressing our need for a 21st century workforce,” Gov. Burgum said.  "We're grateful for the many educators, administrators and volunteers who make this event possible for thousands of students across our state and nation.”

According to Code.org, there are currently more than 480,000 computing jobs open in the U.S. alone, with only 61,000 computer science graduates entering the workforce last year. And while approximately 58% of all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs are in computing, only 8% of STEM gradues have a degree in computer science. Additionally, according to a recent report by cybersecurity organization ISC2, the cybersecurity skills shortage has now topped 4 million jobs globally, with 300,000 of those openings in the U.S.

“Computer science drives innovation, and Hour of Code is a fun way to demystify what coding is and show that anyone can learn these skills,” said Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley. “Coding opens the door not only to essential skills, but to a universe of creative problem solving that is invaluable no matter what career path you choose.”

Last year, nearly 100 schools with an estimated 6,000 students from across the state participated in the first known simultaneous, statewide Hour of Code. North Dakota is again anticipating significant statewide involvement, with more than 100 schools and 4,500 students already signed up. Schools are encouraged to register here.

“Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to learn skills for the workplace of tomorrow,” said Taya Spelhaug, Microsoft TechSpark Manager for North Dakota. “We’re proud to support North Dakota’s statewide Hour of Code and help students gain hands-on experience that will help them thrive in any career they choose.”

“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,” said Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s superintendent of schools. “The Hour of Code helps to fire our students’ enthusiasm for writing software language. It helps them to learn a skill they could turn into a high-paying career. It gives them a keener insight of our modern world, in which everything that affects their lives is influenced in some way by technology, computer science and software language.”

This effort is also part of a holistic, whole-of-government approach to promoting technology education in North Dakota, and specifically computer science and cybersecurity. This effort, known as the “K-20W Initiative” for “kindergarten through PhD and workforce, involves more than 40 public and private sector partners working to provide professional development, training opportunities and resources to North Dakota educators and students in computer science and cybersecurity.

While numerous Hour of Code activities are planned for school districts across the state, EduTech, the educational technology arm of NDIT, will have representatives on site at Central Cass, Northwood, Dickinson and Hazen schools.

Photo caption: Students at Northern Cass Elementary School participate in the 2018 Hour of Code. Photo credit Dennis Krull.