Radio Column

Asa Arkansas's Governor

#ARKidsCanCode

08/21/2015

Column Transcript

Last Saturday morning, I sat with my granddaughter Ella Beth in a room filled with the excited faces of other young people and 70 laptop computers donated by AT&T.

I listened to fingers drumming swiftly across keyboards — effortlessly coding as if they were born for it. A smile crossed my face as I tried not to compare their harmony to my own coding rhythm — much slower, not as graceful. We are all in this together, I told myself. Coding is for everyone.

Students from across Arkansas came to the Clinton Foundation’s annual “Head of the Class Bash” last weekend to kick off the new school year and spend some time coding with their Governor.

What a great event.

Eager students and parents filled the “Hour of Code” room, and more lined the halls waiting to get in. Even if some of them came for the free backpacks, they were introduced to a valuable new skill. It’s a skill increasingly necessary in our computerized world.

You probably remember my granddaughter, Ella Beth, from my campaign commercials. She has become quite a star. Ella Beth helped me sign my computer science bill into law earlier this year, and Saturday she mentored students who were coding for the first time.

In a way, learning to code is like learning a new language, which may explain why kids pick it up so much faster than adults. Last Saturday, I met a student named Michael who was helping me through my hour of code. But he was having trouble explaining the process. Or, maybe, his student — me — was having trouble understanding the process. Finally, I said, “Michael, how about you try it?”

He sat down at my computer and, with one click, he got it right. One of the great things about computer coding is that it’s more than just a mental exercise. It’s also about touch; it’s about feel; it’s about familiarity. And the next generation is so terrific at it. They’re naturals.

I watched other students experience that sense of accomplishment when they, too, made the right click. It’s as if they were completing a puzzle; and as soon as they were finished, they wanted to start again. Coding will do that to you.

We already have more than 1,300 students signed up for computer science classes this fall. We have trained 130 teachers in coding, and computer coding will be offered in every public high school in Arkansas.

I expected the students to be excited by our computer science initiative. What’s really encouraging to me is seeing the teachers responding to the demand. Like me, they’re excited to learn — and teach — computer coding.

Last weekend, I learned enough computer language to direct a character to walk around a square. Somebody taught me how to do it, and then I told the computer how to do it.

I would say that it was great to be a student again, but no matter how old we are, we never stop learning. And in a world that’s changing as much as ours, that’s a very good thing.

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Click Here to view images from the "Hour of Code" event at the Clinton Center.