Teaching Kids to Code: An Economic & Social Justice Issue

Hadi Partovi wants more kids to learn to code.  Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerber, Sheryl Sandberg, and many others agree.  Partovi wants all high schools to offer computer science classes because it represents a growing cluster of job skills but one that few schools teach–particularly schools attended by low income and minority kids.
To fix the problem Hadi launched Code.org.  The initial strategy is inspiration and advocacy.
His site is packed with stats that make the case for coding (including the video below).  For example, did you know that coding jobs aren’t just in tech?  In fact, almost 70% of them are in other sectors–most businesses need people that can code.  However, there are fewer schools, teachers, and computer science students in the US than 10 years ago. By contrast, every high school graduate in China must take 4 credits of Computer Science–and yet in the US it’s not even on the menu in most schools.
The next step is to find a place on the master schedule of high schools around the country.  He’d like to see computer science added to list of math and science classes kids can take  to satisfy state graduation requirements.
He’s fond of startups like CodeHS that are building computer science curriculum to take their rightful place in high school catalogs. Hadi also appreciates folks like Project Lead The Way making Computer Science a priority (see recent Getting Smart PLTW feature).
Hadi is looking for ways to support teacher professional development for math and science teachers that can teach coding.  He thinks there’s plenty of demand, “it’s a lack of teachers and budget that are holding us back.”
Code.org advocacy appears to be working.  When his video is shown in a high school, “we get a three to four fold increase in enrollment.”
I asked Hadi why we couldn’t just rely on commercial sites like Udemy or Lynda to learn programs like Ruby.  He said “Learning Ruby may be one of the best vocational things anyone could learn, but I wouldn’t recommend putting it in high school curriculum.”  Hadi would rather “teach basic problem solving strategies like loops, functions, not specific languages.”
“Coding is at intersection of tech ed and edtech,” said Partovi. “People get online Computer Science,” and “It may be an easier sell to blended Computer Science than blended math.”
Hadi has a big fundraising goal–but he’s got allies that appreciate his objectives.
For more on Code.org check out the video below.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Kelly Drill

Our dev team is actually working on a new project to help young kids develop the logic/problem-solving skills they'll need to eventually learn coding. Kids program a robot to navigate through progressively challenging mazes and can even go head-to-head with friends in programming tournaments. You can check it out here: http://botlogic.us. We’re excited about the response we've gotten so far!

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