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Altoona schools participate in "Hour of Code" campaign

The Hour of Code campaign uses tutorials that features celebrities like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Millions of children around the world are learning at least an hour of computer science this week. It's part of a new campaign supported by lawmakers, celebrities, and educators alike.

One area school is tapping into all the campaign has to offer to get its kids exposed to computer science as early as elementary school.

The Altoona School District says in 2020, there will be 1,400,000 computing jobs, and only 400,000 computer science students to fill them. That would leave a gap of 1,000,000. That's why Altoona is teaching one hour of coding to it's students throughout this week.

"That's always been a gap, and there is not enough students who are graduating with degrees in computer science," said UW-Eau Claire Computer Science Professor Jack Tan.

He says today's kids are already tech-oriented, so why not put those skills to use?

"It is the core skill of the 21st century, so it's important that they start young, in elementary school; for them to learn how to code," he said.

"We met as a staff and talked about this Angry Birds coding that we could use for our younger kids," said Altoona 3rd grade teacher Tammy VanBlarcom.

Her district jumped at an opportunity to introduce its kids to computer science district-wide.

"I think it's good to get them exposed to that, and give them an opportunity to play around with all different things that coding can do, understand what it is, what kind of jobs they can have as adults," she said.

VanBlarcom says she and other elementary school teachers didn't know a whole lot about computer science, and that's where the campaign itself came in handy.

"We're working on code.org," she said. "We're using video clips that they have already set up for classrooms and specifically for teachers to help students understand something that we might not a whole lot about ourselves."

VanBlarcom says with the interactive coding games, the thirst for computer science is growing in her classroom.

"It's really fun and sometimes it's really cool because the levels get harder," said 3rd grade student Amahni Williams.

"I like video games," said 3rd grader Peyton Sima, "so I really would like to be one to make up a video game."

For more information on the campaign, click on the link on the right side of this story.

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