Nebojša Vasiljević: Hour of Code

Everyone agrees that children should be computer literate, but we would receive various answers to the question whether this includes programming literacy as well. The dynamic development of information technology is constantly changing our views on many issues, and in the year that just ended, a number of initiatives were launched, as well as ideas and innovative solutions aimed at mass teaching of  programming and computer science.

It is time to rethink the question of whether all children should learn programming: those who support this need to reflect onwhat part of programming exactly should be taught and how itshould be taught, and those who are closer to a negative answer, should consider whether a different approach to learning programming may makes sense.

User and/or programmer

There are more and more things from the field of computer sciences that ordinary users should know. For example, if weproperly mark the styles in a Microsoft Word document, we can easily establish the content and automate a variety of other activities, such as the correction of the appearance of subheadings.

Similarly, if some of our data is entered in an Excel spreadsheet,we do not need to connect cells nor to mark importance of the content by changing the color of the cell – structure of rows and columns should be clean, with the introduction of a new columnwhen we need a new characteristic. If we do so, afterwards wewill easily automate the filtering of rows, as well as sort andcount totals by groups etc. All Excel users should know this; however, as in the previous case, to those skilled inprogramming this is all logical without a lot of explaining.

Examples like the previous two, illustrate how a mindset that is acquired by learning programming is useful for general understanding of technology. In fact, every time you think about how to do something so that it could be better automated later, amental activity similar to programming takes place. There remains only the question of how to teach children to think like programmers, without overburdening them with all that professional programmers need to know.

If you have not done it already, we recommend that you go through a few lessons on Short programs which solve given problems are created by stacking offered blocks and thus controlling the characters from famous video games. As an introductory explanation for certain areas you have video clips in which celebrities appear. Those who liked the lessons, may go on Scratch ( to create their own animated content, and try to learn the basics of Web programming at Codeacademy (

An hour for knowledge

In the first half of December a global initiative entitled “An Hour of Code” was organized (in which more than 15 million people spent an hour on learning programming, going throughtutorials based on the aforementioned and other similar tools.The results of this initiative, in which a significant participation of schools, organizations and individuals was marked, may be found on The experiences from “An Hour of Code” prove that children respond positively to this method of learning.

If you want a serious expert analysis, see the report of the joint working group Informatics Europe and ACM Europe on computer education or the Royal Society report on computing in UK schools.

We should mention that the National Educational Council of the Republic of Serbia adopted the “Guidelines for the Advancement of ICT in education” (, in whose drafting the author of this text also participated. In the section entitled “The Role of ICT in the objectives and outcomes of education” the classification of competences with the significant role of ICT is given, within which IT reasoning is highlighted ass general education competence dominated by the aspect of understanding the concepts, principles and theoreticalfoundations from the field of ICT.

It is not enough to teach children how to use technology; rather they should be familiarized with the concepts and the scientific basis on which ICT is based. Of course, this does not mean that everyone needs to become a professional in computer science, but that computer science is acquiring the aspect of general education, much like mathematics or physics.

The original version of the text can be found on the website of PC Press: PC Press no. 26