Attention All Software Engineers: Please Volunteer During The Hour Of Code

The Hour Of Code is a great hack that introduces coding to students in K-12 schools all around the country. Most schools don’t have CS teachers and CS classes. But any teacher in any classroom in any school can find one hour to get their students in front of a computer writing code. And so that’s what the hour of code does. Last year 15mm students did an hour of code. Think about that for a second. 15mm students wrote code for an hour last year. That’s a gateway to something more for the students, teachers, and schools. Which is exactly the point.

The Hour Of Code happens during CS Ed week which is December 8-14 this year. And the numbers are going to be even bigger this year. And so here is my throwdown to all of the software engineers and coders and hackers out there. Please take an hour out of your work week and go to a school and code with the students. It’s one thing for a teacher and her kids to code for an hour. It’s entirely another for them to do that with a real life software engineer.

There are many ways that you can do that, but here’s an easy one:

The TEALS program, a CSNYC grantee, is organizing an effort to bring tech industry professionals into schools to help lead Hour Of Code activities during Computer Science Education Week. The volunteers will give career talks and then help students with their first programming experience. If you want to volunteer, or know a school that should host a volunteer, visit to sign up.

And finally, here’s a 3min video of a teacher who works in an all boys public middle/high school in the Bronx talking about CS, his students, coding, and the importance of role models in the classroom. Please watch it. It’s inspiring.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Just great stuff.I can cheer this one but I’m the wrong guy to teach even though I can do a bit in a very primitive form.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      You can teach the Hour of Wine.I had a french teacher in high school who once spent a class just talking about wine.

      1. awaldstein

        I spend a lot of time talking to technical entrepreneurs about the power of brand and the behaviors of markets and consumers.Honestly I never get tired of doing that.Wine is a luxury and wonderful, success is a drive for everyone!

        1. Dave Pinsen

          The history of wine is much broader than luxury – it was safer to drink than water for a long time.I also recall someone arguing in recent times that school kids would be better off drinking diluted wine than milk.

          1. awaldstein

            Very true and as you know I’m a deeply passioned geek about wine My wine blog has driven over 50% of my consulting work in tech over the last 7 years.Still the more I understand why people pay me, the better my business has grown.

        2. JamesHRH

          Hour of Perception.

      2. JimHirshfield

        in French or in English?

        1. jason wright


          1. JimHirshfield

            Good one. Cheers!

        2. Dave Pinsen

          English. He would’ve lost us pretty quickly in French.

    2. bsoist

      Disagree. Check out Don’t you think you could motivate 1st or 2nd graders to solve those puzzles?

      1. awaldstein

        possibly but this is not my strength and others can do it better.

        1. bsoist

          Perhaps. Just didn’t want you to sell yourself short. 🙂

          1. LE

            I can understand where Arnold is coming from. I could do this but it’s not something that I want to do. I don’t get any particular pleasure from interacting with children on any level actually. [1] Or for that matter even adults who aren’t particularly smart or for whatever reason don’t challenge what you say in any way. (I don’t mean challenge for the sake of giving you a hard time I mean challenge and make you think and just don’t accept the argument that you are’s all a balance).[1] I have a brother in law that takes his sons and is very involved in the Boy Scouts (one son just made eagle scout). I can’t think of anything that I would rather not do then spend weekends camping with kids. For that matter I can’t think of anything I’d rather not do more than really spending time even doing something that I like to do with kids. Just not my thing, everyone is different. Like golf, tried it, didn’t like it and knew that I wouldn’t. College level, that’s a different thing that I probably would enjoy. Luckily I had two girls so I had light duty on the “father” thing.

          2. bsoist

            I can’t think of anything that I would rather not do then spend weekends camping with kids. Agree with you there. :)I have been working around K-12 students on and off for 20 years and I tell people all the time that “loving kids” is the wrong reason to pursue a career in education. Don’t do it.don’t get any particular pleasure from interacting with children on any level actuallyPushing people to volunteer for things they don’t want to do is not my style, but getting pleasure out of it is not really the point, right?

          3. LE

            but getting pleasure out of it is not really the point, right?At the root of what everyone does is some type of reinforcement or pleasure or avoidance of pain or guilt.If I make comments on AVC it’s because it provides some benefit in to me and as it makes me feel good to do so. It’s really that simple. Any other benefit that I get is really secondary to that.Person who volunteers at the church or synagogue is getting some type of positive reinforcement for doing that. They aren’t suffering anymore than I am suffering when I work the hours that I do. I enjoy it so I do it. It’s not a sacrifice in any way. I answered an email last night at midnight (like many of us do I’m sure) and I didn’t feel put out in any way at all.My ex wife used to spend a ton of times thinking she was “a great mother” simply because she was “always doing things with our kids”.But it wasn’t for the kids as much as it was for her. It gave her a way to hang out with girlfriends who had kids the same age. She didn’t think “who are the best friends for my kids” she thought “who do I want to hang out with”. And that’s who she arranged “play dates” with.My parents made me a super big bar mitzvah party it wasn’t for me it was for them (and I hated hated hated hated that day) so they could have a big party for their friends. It was all about them and their friends if they had asked me I would have said “no party at all”.The above covers over 90% of the human population (arbitrary) of course there are outliers but even the outliers are doing so for some reason that isn’t total selflessness.

  2. David Semeria

    Here in Italy my 11 year old son has just started learning about IT at school. I read his text book and became depressed. It’s full of things like “How to use the start button in Windows”. He has learned that stuff by himself, through trial and error.What is missing is any notion of what a computer is and how it works.So I proposed to his teacher that I come in and explain to the class. But not using a blackboard; I want to do something different which would hold their attention.So we’re going to build a computer out of kids. Each one will wear a hat defining his or her function (RAM, OS, keyboard, etc) and they will hold colored ropes which will define the communication channels (red for output, green for input).We’ll then run a program on our human computer (I was thinking of tic-tac-toe or Connect 4).I don’t know if the experiment will work, but at least we’ll have some fun.

    1. William Mougayar

      Wow. That’s creative.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Clever idea. Curious how the implementation goes. Guessing that part might be tricky.

      1. David Semeria

        It’s more a question of explaining the most important principle in computing: abstraction — ie the fact that a given layer can only communicate with those immediately above and below.I was thinking of explaining this principle using 3 kids with telephones. Kid A can only talk to kid C by asking kid B (who is contact with both) to pass on the message,Except that instead of phones I want to use bananas.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Reminds me of the game of telephone, but the lesson of that one was the unreliability of verbal communication.

    3. JimHirshfield

      Video please

      1. David Semeria

        I think we’ll be doing it in January.Video will be tricky for privacy reasons and also the fact that it will all be in Italian. Will certainly post some photos if the parents are ok with that.

    4. bsoist

      Excellent ideas. has a few lessons that do not require computer hardware at all. They are excellent for teaching the thinking skills.

    5. LIAD


    6. Twain Twain

      When I was 11, my way of understanding computers was from:(1.) Building a simple “Hanoi Towers” game rather than tic-tac-toe.It’s a good way to learn about functions and order.(2.) Making a simple Turing code wheel so A = 1, B = 2 etc. and getting the other kids to try and crack the code and guess what I’d written.

    7. Chimpwithcans

      I’m 32, but are there any spaces in your kid’s classroom? 🙂

      1. David Semeria


    8. LE

      It’s full of things like “How to use the start button in Windows”. He has learned that stuff by himself, through trial and error.Wow that’s really scary that they are approaching it like that. I learned back in the day of trial and error (like 4 to 8 hours literally to figure out 1 or 2 problem).Each one will wear a hat defining his or her function (RAM, OS, keyboard, etc) and they will hold colored ropes which will define the communication channels (red for output, green for input).An example of something similar is how I explain how a fax machine works. Divide paper into grids, take grid sector “a1” and shout 0 if it’s blank and 1 if there is something int the sector. Person on the other end of the phone then puts the appropriate mark onto the grid they are looking at. And so on. Everything starts with a basic small concept.

      1. David Semeria

        First point: yes, they’re teaching the kids to be users, not programmers.Your second point is very similar to how the mouse will work. One kid will be the mouse and every time the user moves the mouse, the mouse kid will call the OS kid and say “mouse has moved up a bit and left a bit”. The OS kid will then call the screen kid (at the blackboard) and say “move the pointer up and to the left” and finally the screen kid will call the pointer kid (with a big pointer on a stick) who will actually move the pointer.

        1. LE

          I really like foundational stuff like that. To me it’s the key to being able to dig yourself out of a mess. Understanding how on a basic level things work.Like I’ve been with people who, when the car is out of gas, say “can we call AAA and get a “hot shot??”. And they do mean “hot shot” they don’t mean “can of gas from AAA”. Like if your car is cranking and it won’t start and is out of gas you don’t need more battery power. Sometimes it’s even hard to understand what it is they don’t understand and know since it’s so obvious. Or the reason you don’t hook up the cables (if doing a hot shot) to the terminals you ground one to the car body. And so on. Life is not all about learning wrote steps without understanding the reason behind things. I found this type of thing very helpful when working with physical machinery btw. Understanding how the machine worked allowed you to get it running when something broke by improvising.

    9. ShanaC

      they do that because the computer belongs to the school, and they are afraid of kids doing trial and error things to do computers, because the computers are expensive.

  3. William Mougayar

    I think a big benefit to this program is that by being exposed to coding (maybe for the first time), some students will like it to the point of realizing they want it as a career. The outcome has got to be some incremental numbers of students that continue with it. Even if only 5% decided to stick with it, that’s an additional 750,000 potential software engineers or computer scientists, and that’s a very good thing.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      When I was a kid, some basic exposure to BASIC on an Apple 2 was offered in our public junior high school. I wonder if that launched anyone on the idea of having a programming career.

      1. William Mougayar

        The availability of follow-on choices is important too.

    2. awaldstein

      Career choice is not the most important metric.I learned to program when played with my firstTRS-80. Informed my entire career in two ways–I’ve always been the market connector and leader for tech companies so common language is key but most important, I learned what I was good at as a leader and needed to know as a piece of my knowledge. Both critical, both important.

      1. William Mougayar

        But kids at that age aren’t so self-conscious about knowing themselves. What they will know is – hey I liked this, give more, or No I didn’t like it, I’ll do something else.

        1. awaldstein

          To my point.This is not about careers it is about learning. The metric of success is about engagement and excitement.A generation later about employment.We have NO idea how software programming as a career will look in a decade honestly.

          1. bsoist

            I work with students and teachers every week, and one of my biggest frustrations is the emphasis schools place on career preparedness.I wrote something up three weeks ago for teachers on a related topic and I ended with this.I know some of you are concerned about what it might be like for them out in the real world – so let’s talk about that.My teachers could not have possibly imagined what I would do for a living, and more importantly, how I would do it.This morning, after taking Becky out for breakfast on her birthday – 16 now! – I needed to get something done that I added to my TODO list yesterday.The details are not important, but I can assure you that my teachers could never have guessed I would receive messages from colleagues all over the world – Brazil, Sweden, India, Australia – almost instantly, and that I could respond to them by recording my thoughts on a telephone I carried in my pocket while walking the dog.Doesn’t matter how well meaning my teachers were, they could not have prepared me for those details.They did, however, prepare me for the work I do – by insisting that I think critically, put my thoughts in writing, and be able to back up my arguments with reason.

          2. awaldstein

            Absolutely!Kids need inspiration.That was my point, poorly articulated albeit, to @wmoug:disqus that immediately laying career as the metric of success is not optimum.Aside–my son, an herbologist has started giving wild crafting walks for his daughters school, teaching kids how to harvest some natural herbs, make them into natural products and tinctures.It’s exploded.How many will become herbologists–few. How many will benefit by understanding and being interested in the natural world and its connection to the products we use and our health–everyone!

          3. bsoist

            Exactly.What a great thing to do for the students. I think your son will find he learns as much as they do. :)RE: inspirationThough I support the hour of code initiative – this year I expect to have almost 600 students participate – but I have mixed feelings about the “look how easy programming is” part of this hour of code. Love the inspiration part, the “look this might not be what you thought it was” but let’s not kid ourselves – programming is not easy.

          4. awaldstein

            Yup–now a gm for a herbal company it is getting him back to his roots.And strangely enough demand is growing not just from kids but generally and it is creating a place in the community for him that wasn’t there before.

          5. LE

            and one of my biggest frustrations is the emphasis schools place on career preparedness.I think it’s certainly fair for school to put some emphasis but not all emphasis on the career.Also one thing that I need to mention is this whole idea of “love what you do” and the danger of that type of thinking.It very well may not be possible for people to find a career that they “wake up to in the morning and love to go to work” and all of that.Work is not really as much about “doing something you love” as it is “making money so you can survive in today’s world”.There is nothing wrong with having a job that doesn’t make you jump for joy to get up in the AM and in fact many people just do fine in life with this type of “satisfice” if you want to call it that.People who are looking to really “love what they do” can sometimes end up waiting tables in LA or NYC hoping to get the (for example) big break in entertainment.Separately if you have a job that you make a ton of money you will learn to love that job in a way separate from doing the same job and not making money.Life is not all about fun. Get over that thinking (not you as target of that comment).

          6. bsoist

            Agreed. I thought I had written over-emphasis, actually, because some is certainly okay. I work with K-12 teachers, and the substance of what I wrote in that post was about putting proper headings on papers and similar things that teachers over-emphasize for the sake of what students will see in the “real world.” That’s the kind of career preparedness of which I was writing.RE: loving what you doI’ve been doing some writing toward what I hope I can turn into a book on just that subject. I DO believe people can find work that motivates them to get up for work every day, BUT I am sick of the “follow your dreams” advice.I always dreamed of being a rock star, but I clearly didn’t really want that since I put no effort into it [1]. One can learn a lot about oneself by paying close attention to where effort is spent. There is a part of me that thinks the question “what should I really be doing with my life” is answered by what you focus your energies on already.[1] Though I am a better than average guitarist, and incredibly handsome.

          7. LE

            One can learn a lot about oneself by paying close attention to where effort is spent.My wife and I were having a discussion about my step daughter who wants my wife to buy her another drum set so that she doesn’t have to schlep the school drum set home. I said “not only does she show only nominal interest in learning the drums (she has also taken other instruments like guitar and same “meh”) but she will never do this long term”. You know why? Because there is no feedback mechanism to spur her on and to reinforce her.Reasons?- We don’t really care about her playing the drums.- None of her friends probably care- She will never be good enough to get reinforcement fromteachers and others- Nothing unique about playing musical instruments that will make her standout. Lots of people do that….and so on. Among other reasons.When I did photography in high school and had a darkroom I had the following going for me that spurred me on.- I was good enough that I was able to make money doing photography at a time when I had no competition (at my age)- It was something I could do myself which I liked.- The basement (darkroom) was a nice peaceful place and the temperature was always pleasant.- I was given positive feedback from my father when he never gave me positive feedback for practically anything else (other than other things that I did to earn money or maybe karate because that was a valuable skill in his mind)- I did pretty good work for my age. – Made me unique in some way….and so on (other things I’m sure I’m forgetting). So the feedback mechanism was real and provided value to my brain.

      2. someone

        same here, typing BASIC programs onto a TRS-80 and saving them on a cassette tape drive.

        1. awaldstein

          yup–was living in Seattle at the time. My day job was working with UW, writing grants for parents of handicapped students who were forming support communities and writing early educational SW programs and getting the published and distributed through the Library of Congress.

    3. LE

      that’s an additional 750,000 potential software engineers or computer scientistsI know that Marc A thinks that “software is eating the world” but you have to consider what having a greater supply of software engineers will do to wages in that line of work. (As I mentioned in my other comment).As an example look at what has happened recently with oil prices. A short time ago all the “white men” talking heads [1] were saying we were running out of oil. Now domestic (I believe) production as well as other factors has us to a point where prices have dropped considerably as a result of increased supply and reduced demand.…[1] I have what I call the “journal of white men are wrong again” every time I find an example of something that “white men” swear is the truth that later ends up being overturned by either fact or other “white men”.

      1. PrometheeFeu

        Unless of course, network effects cause your work to be more valuable when new people become software engineers.

      2. Matt Zagaja

        Prediction is hard, especially about the future ;).I think there will be different types of software developers and some will continue to be superstars that make consumer applications, some will make good wages working for Fortune 500 companies, and some will end up struggling along designing websites for local businesses.

    4. panterosa,

      see my comment about law school, which doesn’t produce 100% lawyers.

  4. JimHirshfield

    This is a great program. My kids did it last year and they’ve continued to tinker throughout the year, including projects that were part of the school curriculum.

    1. William Mougayar

      Do they see this as an interesting project, or a potentially serious higher education / career choice?

      1. JimHirshfield

        My son seems most interested and sees it as fun. Too young to think about career or college major. He’s in elementary school.

  5. JimHirshfield

    So, this is indirectly related to CSNYC. Ya gotta mention that the tip button benefits CSNYC. IOW, if you like the idea of this post, drop some bits in the jar peeps. I just did.+300 bits.

    1. fredwilson

      great point. missed oppty.

    2. panterosa,


  6. JamesHRH

    This puppy has legs.Hour of Finance, Hour of Sales, Hour of Leading, Lots of Hours of…….I wish I had an Hour of Sewing ( buttons back on, dogs back together…. )Teachers deserve community involvement in practical demonstration of real world skills. Not just lectures but case studies & tutorials.Exposure piques interest but also builds the confidence of basic understanding ( if it is done well).Great, great idea.

    1. LE

      Teachers deserveAlong the lines of my previous comment on teacher salaries (and by the way I’m not saying they should be paid more as there appears to be enough supply of teachers to make it a desirable job that many people want to do) it would be an idea for wealthy people or organizations to sponsor “chairs” for truly exceptional teachers much the way it is done at the college level.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Teaching is a desirable job, but maybe not always for the type of people that we’d like to have teaching. Teaching colleges in my state accept students with a 2.7 GPA, which I do not find particularly encouraging (see…. Anecdotally I have heard the older cohort of teachers that are retiring have noticed that the newer cohort tends to treat the job as a 9-5 and do not put in the extra kinds of efforts that their generation did. At a lot of prices you’ll find someone who will do a job, but not always the right person.

  7. Twain Twain

    After hearing Hadi Partovi at Web Summit, I approached him about working something out with Code.Org and SF’s K2C initiative (Kindergarten to College savings program).My day job actually has nothing to do with the Education and non-profits sector but it’s where I donate my time and skills whenever I can.I’ve volunteered in teaching kids maths and Comp Sci ever since I was a kid myself because I knew other kids weren’t as fortunate as me. My parents bought us a computer and handheld games before high school and my mixed school had compulsory Comp Sci from when I was 11.That gave me the basis and opportunities to do what I do today.”Pay IT forward” as the saying goes.

  8. LE

    This is a great video.One thing though that’s ironic is that Jason says:If you can have a job, that you can wake up to in the morning, and love what you do and live comfortably and have security that’s more than most people can ask for or even have …NYC Teachers are among the highest paid in the nation but this is what they make currently:Beginning in September 2014, starting teacher salaries will range from $48,445 (bachelor’s degree, no prior teaching experience) to $76,299 (master’s degree, eight years teaching experience, plus additional coursework)……..By May of 2018, the top salary for teachers with the maximum combination of experience and coursework on the salary schedule will be $119,472 per year.No way is even 119k enough to “live comfortably” in the NYC Metro area. Check out the housing prices. [1]There is no question a tremendous amount of opportunity in NY Metro for go getters and people of above average drive and ambition (more so than intelligence). However if you are just normal or average and/or are doing an average job you would almost certainly be able to live a better life in some other metropolitan area (such as Philly). And you can still take a train or drive in if you are so enamoured with seeing NYC. You’re not seeing shows and going out on the town every single night after all.As a separate issue, and along the lines of “skate to where the puck is going” I have to mention that while CS skills are certainly hot right now (and appear that they will be for quite some time) there is no guarantee that they will be hot 15 years down the road. The reason is that the supply is increasing almost certainly more than the demand which is driving up wages to unsustainable (once supply increases) levels. This is not to say that going into CS or programming is not better than getting a degree in management. Only a caution not to keep up a lifestyle as if you will always be able to write your own ticket. Not to mention that the technology that is hot now won’t be in 15 years. And when you are older it’s much harder to adapt to that type of change.[1] See what $500k buys you for your family. (Something shitty looking near JFK) You can live elsewhere and spend several hours commuting of course if that is how you want to spend your life in a car or a train.

    1. Nathan Gantz

      I agree that CS skills (specifically coding) won’t command the same rewards in 15 years as they do now. However isn’t coding more or less the same discipline as thinking about math with “critical reasoning skills” … so isn’t coding justifiable from the perspective it can replace some of the math curriculum time? (Worst case scenario, assuming math/CS are competitors in a zero sum class time game. I would argue you can get ROI out of the CS investment — math students start retaining more of math lectures because the algorithmic processing become more fathomable)

    2. ShanaC

      oh the insanity of nyc

    3. Dave Pinsen

      One teacher marries another. They live together. 2x the income 1/2x the rent/mortgage.

  9. BillSeitz

    I can find a list of schools with events planned, but no detail on any event, such as a coordinator to contact. Am I missing something?

    1. Nathaniel Granor isn’t organizing any volunteer activities directly, but other organizations are. The website Fred linked to has a signup page, and if you sign up TEALS will try to match you with a participating school:

  10. panterosa,

    Teaching computational thinking, or coding itself, is the closest that K-12 kids get to the organizational thinking that many pursue after college in the form of a law degree. It’s not simply for the purpose of becoming a lawyer, or a coder, it’s learning how to think. Learning how to think, not what to think, is the skill of the century.

  11. Supratim Dasgupta

    When I was growing up in India, my school had very few computers but our Maths syllabus was among the toughest in the nation. We had very mandatory tough courses of calculus, logical reasoning, analytical reasoning etc in 9th and 10th grade. Looking back I realize that laid a great foundation and we picked up programming pretty quickly during +2(11th and 12th). Now the math syllabus is getting weaker in India and am seeing direct correlation to quality of programmers coming out of high school.

  12. Tom Fakes

    I think I’m missing something obvious here. As neither a Student or Teacher, how do I take part in this, other than giving cash to the Indigogo campaign?

    1. Nathaniel Granor

      Through the program Fred mentioned (that TEALS is running), tech industry professionals can help run Hour Of Code activities in schools that have requested volunteers.

  13. Dan Martines

    Any similar program in Boston?

    1. Nathaniel Granor

      Contact the MassTLC Education Foundation ( They are organizing some similar activities in the Boston area. If you fill out the form on the TEALS site that Fred linked to, I can pass your info onto MassTLC as well.