Hour of Code Goes on the Road

Posted on May 29, 2018


If Professor Chuck Konkol had his way, everyone would take at least one hour to learn how to code. He’s certainly done his part to reach as many people as possible in the Rockford region.

Professor Konkol’s efforts began modestly in December 2015 when he offered his first “Hour of Code” event at Rock Valley College, where he is Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems. The idea at that time was to do one event to tie into the global “Hour of Code” movement, but the response was so strong (over 120 people attended) that Konkol decided to offer free “Hour of Code” events at the college each month ever since.

Recently, the opportunity arose to take his show on the road and provide “Hour of Code” as an employee development exercise for a group of workers at Ebates in Beloit, Wisconsin. Over a dozen Ebates employees participated in the “Hour of Code” opportunity on May 23.

“They just learned basic coding, nothing real task heavy,” says Konkol. “The whole idea behind the movement is to get everybody to at least try coding for one hour. I always tell people, ‘You might enjoy it and want to learn more.’”

The majority of Ebates employees who took part in the class work in customer service and were interested in learning more about what some of their colleagues who work in programming do every day. Ebates Senior Account Executive Erin Wilcoxen has worked with the company for thirteen years and often works closely with engineers, but has never really understood the complexities of their work.

“I’ve never had any idea what they do and how they do it,” says Wilcoxen. “To me it’s almost like magic. How do they build something from nothing? So to be able to get a little snippet and a little bit of insight into what they do every day that builds our site and keeps it running was really intriguing.”

Beyond expanding her own knowledge, Wilcoxen wanted to learn more about coding so that she can encourage her two and a half year old daughter to someday explore coding.

“I think she needs to get involved in something like this early on,” Wilcoxen says of her daughter. “It’s going to open up a world of opportunities for her and give her insight into what the world can hold for her.”

Professor Konkol agrees it’s a great way for these employees to pass on what they have learned and possibly ignite the interest of a child or a grandchild.

“I always tell my grandson he can play with the iPad, but he has to create something,” says Konkol. “That’s the idea. So this is something [the Ebates employees who took the class] can introduce to their grandchild or son or daughter.”

Char O’Neal, HR Specialist at Ebates, also appreciated the unique experience “Hour of Code” provided.

“[Professor Konkol made coding] seem simple and fun,” says O’Neal. “It was enlightening!”

The Ebates session was such a success that Konkol may come back again to offer it to more employees, and he hopes other companies will reach out to ask him to do something similar for their employees.

 

In the meantime, Konkol will continue with the monthly events at Rock Valley College, and starting in June, CherryVale Mall will become an official “Hour of Code” location. Konkol, along with RVC administrators, faculty, and students will help lead monthly “Hour of Code” sessions at the mall. The free workshops will take place on the second floor of the mall near Maurices on the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Konkol says seats for the workshops are currently booked full through October.

Regardless of the vocation, “Hour of Code” helps teach technical and critical thinking skills needed in all job types. In addition, it bridges the technical divide most companies have between technical and non-technical jobs. The lessons learned while learning to code are basic computer science concepts like step by step programming logic, object and action interaction, and debugging applications.

If your company is interested in offering “Hour of Code” training to your employees, please email Chuck Konkol at c.konkol@rockvalleycollege.edu. To learn more about RVC “Hour of Code” go to rvchourofcode.com.

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