Teaching Kids to Code: An Economic & Social Justice Issue

Teaching Kids to Code: An Economic & Social Justice Issue by Tom Vander Ark was originally posted on GettingSmart.com.

codeHadi 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 who can code. However, there are fewer schools, teachers, and computer science students in the U.S. than 10 years ago. By contrast, every high school graduate in China must take four credits of Computer Science–and yet in the U.S. 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 the list of math and science classes kids can take  to satisfy state graduation requirements.

He’s fond of start-ups 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.

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