Zuckerberg, Gates And More Promoting Computing In Schools
Written by Sue Gee
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Code.org is a new non-profit foundation committed to the idea that "Every student in school should have the opportunity to learn to code", a message endorsed by some powerful role models.
Code.org has been founded, and funded, by twin brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi who as entrepreneurs and angel investors have an impressive track record of advising startups including Dropbox.
They have gathered together an impressive advisory board including Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter and Marc Andreessen co-founder of Netscape, Stuart Feldman who is Google Vice President of Engineering and former president of the ACM. From the academic world it has the chairman and founder, M.I.T. Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, the University of Washington's Chair of Computer Science & Engineering, Ed Lazowska and the President of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe who has the distinction of being the only woman among the twelve appointees.
Code.org isn't planning to teach kids - apart from its founders its team includes a program manager recruited from Microsoft, a high profile documentary film maker, a web developer, a person responsible for branding and design, a volunteer from Google as software engineer, and a volunteer tech guy.
There are three versions of the promo video that is intended to spread the message that everybody should learn to program and this 5-minute version is currently going viral with over a million views in less than 24 hours. It stars not only Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg but also will.i.am and NBA All-Stars Chris Bosh. Women, although not as high profile are well represented - Ruchi Sanghvi, Facebook's first female engineer and now VP of Dropbox, Elena Silenok who created Clothia.com, Vanessa Hurst founder of CodeMontage and Bronwen Grimes a video games maker.
Code also has an infographic that outlines the problem:
The graphic shows the way in which the shortfall of qualified students to computer programming jobs is projected to reach a million by 2020 - when the kids currently in school are going to be graduating. The fact that 9 out of 10 schools don't even offer computer programming classes is aimed at impressing on teachers that they need to take action.
So what does Code.org intend you to do about it?
In its Learn section it lets you locate local schools that offer programming in the curriculum, it gives links to Codeacademy, Khan Academy, CodeHS and also has a video about Scratch. There are also links to Kodu, Mozilla's Thimble, App Inventor, Arduino, Lego Mindstorm and to other teaching apps There are also links to online tutorials and university course online - Coursera, edX, Udacity and TeachingTree.co.
Its Teaching Section includes Alice alongside Kodu and Scratch and has links to Boostrap, CS Unplugged and Globaloria for incorporating computing into the curriculum. It also gives publicity to TEALS and to CS4HS. The section invites teachers to fill in a form to get more help and advice and has links for downloading or playing the videos or obtaining them on a DVD.
Having high profile attention to the problem is good - but is it enough encourage real change?
It seems almost commonsense that schools should teach the skills that are essential for the 21st century. We already have the highest profile endorsement of the idea in the form of President Obama. Is it enough to simply attempt to raise the profile of programming and its vital roll in the economy?
How could it be that programming and computer science has been left out of the curriculum so far? Could it be the fundamental dilemma of those who can do and those who can't teach? After all, if you are a programmer you can earn much more money creating code than teaching code.
The solution might be the age old oil that out smooths all problems - money.