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 students.
To fix the problem Hadi launched Code.org in 2013. The initial strategy of inspiration and advocacy has brought a greater awareness to coding and expanded opportunities for learning and teaching. 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 ten years ago. By contrast, every high school graduate in China must take four credits of Computer Science–and yet in the US it’s not even on the menu in most schools.
Code.org is also home to the Hour of Code, a global movement that has impacted tens of millions of kids in over 180 countries. The Hour of Code consists of a series of one hour tutorials (in over 30 languages) designed to provide students across the world with an experience in coding. This week, as part of Computer Science Education Week, we invite you to join the Hour of Code.
Partners like Microsoft believe in Hadi’s mission and are dedicated to supporting events such as the Hour of Code in an effort to better prepare students for college and career. As Alison Cunard, General Manager of Microsoft Learning Experience notes in An Hour of Code, A Lifetime of Learning, “Today’s students—our future business innovators—will not only depend on technology skills to get work done, collaborate, and communicate; but to navigate their day-to-day tasks and activities in an increasingly complex world.”
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.
Hadi appreciates folks like Project Lead The Way making Computer Science a priority (see Getting Smart PLTW feature).
He’s also fond of startups like CodeHS with a computer science curriculum for high school.  Last summer CodeHS ran a successful PD course that trained teachers with no prior experiences to become computer science teachers.
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.”
For more on Code.org, watch this:

This blog is brought to you by Microsoft as part of a series on coding for college and career readiness. For more, stay tuned in January for the final published project, Getting Smart on Coding for College and Career Readiness and check out additional posts in the series:

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.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Jim Hollis

We're creating a similar program, connecting students from the Silicon Valley with students in Ferguson Missouri around math and science project based learning activities. The Digital One Room Schoolhouse (DORS) facilitates workshops and common core aligned science and math projects with students, accredited teachers and "real" scientists and scholars from across the country; all coordinated using the Edmodo platform (one of our project partners).
How could we incorporate what code.org is doing with our project?

Alex Kluge

> coding jobs aren’t just in tech? In fact, almost 70% of them are in other sectors–most
> businesses need people that can code
This leads pretty quickly to the value of teaching and applying CS in other contexts rather than only as a stand alone subject. Indeed, because CS is now so embedded in almost every profession it is hard to claim a complete coverage of almost any topic without including the use and impact of modern technology. Just as we have early classes dedicated to reading and writing, but employ those skills as an intrinsic part of pretty much every other subject, we should employ computers as an intrinsic part of almost every topic. I am not focused on coding, but the strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate use of computers within contexts outside of pure computer science. Students should be able to identify, use, and adapt to the toolsets used around topics like art, history, politics, etc.


Thanks for sharing Jim, DORS sounds like a great program that will be a memorable experience for both students and teachers. Check out some of these resources for how to incorporate code.org into your work http://code.org/educate

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.