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Raising Kids Who Code

Written by David Gee

Raising Kids Who Code

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The overall job market may still be soft, but thousands of software and computer science-related positions across the country are open and begging for applicants. In fact, programming jobs are growing at two to three times the national average of other occupations. By 2020, the industry expects to have a million more jobs than it can fill (see graphic below). Enter The Hour of Code, a nationwide campaign launched this week designed to change those statistics, by getting students from kindergarten through 12th grade exposed to writing code.

According to The Washington Post, by late Tuesday, an estimated six million students in 167 countries had taken a tutorial, said Hadi Partovi of Code.org, a nonprofit organization he founded with his brother, Ali, to encourage computer science in education.

Through its Web site, “Hour of Code” offers lessons in computer coding aimed at every age group and accessible on a wide range of devices. In some cases, entire schools have been holding coding sessions for their students, while others have been working in individual classes or logging on at home.

“Don’t just buy a new video game, make one,” says President Obama. “Don’t just download the latest app, help design it.”

“Don’t just buy a new video game, make one,” says President Obama in the video he recorded to students on behalf of the campaign. “Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

The site also features free tutorials by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates among others, and they will remain on the site and available to the public even after this week.

One of the more surprising – and exciting – things Partovi says he has seen is that more than 60 percent of the participating students so far have been girls.

“Two days ago, the number of girls doing computer science in this country was 18 percent,”  Partovi told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “This is amazing.”

Partovi is a tech investor, who had early stakes in such companies as Facebook and Dropbox. He decided about five months ago it would be fun to make a video featuring tech thought leaders discussing the virtue of coding. The video went viral, and soon companies – and leaders – from Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn and others were kicking in money and resources.

Computer science is driving job growth and innovation throughout our economy and society.

Code. org says computer science is driving job growth and innovation throughout our economy and society. More than half of projected jobs in STEM fields are in computing occupations; these occupations dominate “help wanted” ads; and computer science is one of the hottest degrees for new college graduates. Yet they say computer science is marginalized throughout our education system.

David Dourgarian, President and CEO of TempWorks, began learning code and software programming at an early age. And though he hasn’t actively programmed for several years, he does feel it’s a useful skill to have in our increasingly tech-based society.

“It’s certainly something that is at least as important as many other things they teach in school today, and it could be potentially more valuable,” he said. “Computer science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem solving and forces you to analyze and think about how a whole bunch of different things work together in a program.”

“Computer science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem solving.”

Jeff Wise, the author of this piece on kids who code in New York magazine, writes “for most people, software programming’s social cachet falls somewhere between that of tax preparation and autism.”

But to end the piece, he quotes Albert Wenger, managing partner of tech investment firm Union Square Ventures, who talks about a transformation currently under way.

Wenger, who graduated from Harvard with degrees in economics and computer science and holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from MIT, says ”Coding has gone from something that weird kids do to something that cool kids do.”

Raising Kids Who Code

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Gregg Dourgarian

    I’m overall positive about the president and others helping with this code-literacy campaign, but the tone “It’s easy – just do it!” may do more harm than good.

    Good coders are actually quite rare and only become so through the genuinely painful process of mastering not just a language but a huge supporting cast of libraries, tools and problem domains. They rarely ever can do this without working side by side with journeymen coders.

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  2. David Gee Post author

    “Maybe not everyone should learn to code.” That’s the sentiment software engineer Chase Felker was trying to convey in a piece he wrote for National Post that also appeared on Slate and other sites. And like you Gregg, he is worried about oversimplification among other things.

    “Frankly, just the idea that you can learn to code in a year gives me the creeps: I would be terrified if someone with only a couple of classes were writing programs for me, not because he (of course, and unfortunately, most programmers are men) has learned anything wrong—but because of what he doesn’t know,” Felker writes.

    While he is open to the idea that teaching kids to code “will undoubtedly help the field as it tries to attract the most capable people to join its ranks,” he has concerns.

    “I’m not going to pretend that you need to be a genius to do useful things with a computer. It is possible to build a website solely from a facile use of Rails syntax. But in both the long and short term, you need to know more than that, and popular Web and mobile courses might not make this clear. Restricting yourself to learning about the technology du jour makes it easy to memorize habits rather than thinking them through. Eventually those technologies and programming languages will go out of style, and you’ll need a flexible understanding to tweak your habits for the next thing. And without knowing more of the bigger picture, you’re forced to hack away at a problem, which can take you pretty far until you run into one that is better solved by more careful design.”

    He also says no matter how pervasive a technology is, we don’t need to understand how it works—our society divides its labor so that everyone can use things without going to the trouble of making them.

    Read the whole thing at: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/21/chase-felker-youre-not-a-computer-programmer-and-thats-ok/

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