Developers Are “Rock Stars” and "Wizards" at Code.org

A new non-profit foundation with the primary aim of getting more people coding has emerged this week, complete with an introductory video with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Will.I.Am (yes, THAT Will.I.Am!) touting the benefits of software programming. The non-profit is Code.org, and they want to help kids, parents, and schools learn how to program.

In this short film, put together by technology entrepreneurs Hadi and Ali Partovi and directed by “Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth” producer Lesley Chilcott, we hear from all sorts of celebrities, including  Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, Bill Clinton, Eric Schmidt (Google), Stephen Hawking, Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers), Gabe Newell (Valve), and Tony Hsieh (Zappos).  

People profiled in this short production talk about their first attempts at coding, comparing it to other activities that many people try out; like sports. Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston compares programming to playing an instrument – it just takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. In addition to coding legends, the video gets input from such unlikely people as basketball superstar Chris Bosh, who took coding lessons in college, and Will.I.Am, founder of the musical group Black Eyed Peas, who says this:

“Here we are, 2013, we all depend on technology to communicate, to bank, and none of us know how to read and write code….It’s important for these kids, right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code.”

The organization was founded by Hadi Partovi to address the fact that we simply have a shortfall of talented coders, and the gap is getting bigger all the time.  In fact, there are very few schools that offer any kind of programming classes. The video and the organization are an attempt to address both of these issues, making coding a more ubiquitous core skill that is taught in more schools, right next to other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes.

Software programming/coding is one of the fastest growing segments of jobs in the country with fantastic salaries, but the demand is much higher than the supply. It’s estimated that one million more jobs than students by the year 2020 are possible, which is an astonishing statistic. Filling that gap could be worth in the range of $500 billion, as we can see from the graphic below (found at Code.org):

 

In the video, Mark Zuckerberg mentions that they hire “as many talented engineers as we can find”. According to the Bureau of Labor and Industries, the job growth for coders is considered to be “much faster than average”, with a 30% steady growth projected over the next seven years and a median pay of $90k:

With this kind of job growth, it’s somewhat unsettling to look on the other end and see where our education system currently stands on the subject of computer science. According to USA Today:

  • Less than two percent of students study computer programming
  • In 41 states, computer science doesn’t count toward high school graduation requirements
  • Programming jobs are growing at double the pace of other jobs but programming is not offered at 90 percent of U.S. schools

 The US is behind most other countries when it comes to math and science, and computer science classes starting at an early age could not only serve to close this gap, but also create a talented workforce. The path to doing this doesn’t have to be as difficult as many people believe it is:

“One is, people think, ‘It’s too hard for me,’” Partovi says. “Adults assume their daughters can’t learn this stuff. They don’t realize 10 year olds can learn this.” The second roadblock is people think they’ll be isolated working in a dark basement somewhere. Third, high school counselors think computer programming jobs are all overseas so students shouldn’t study it, Partovi says. - Forbes

Code.org offers several different ways that interested parties can get involved: you can sign a petition to ask for computing classes be taught in your local school, you can volunteer to teach kids how to code, or you can start with simple lessons found on their site from notable online services that offer free coding classes and get going yourself. In addition to being available online, this film will also be shown in Regal movie theaters starting Friday, March 1 (sponsored by Microsoft), promoted on Facebook, and featured on YouTube.

Coding isn’t all about math. It also helps develop logical thinking, creativity, and builds confidence in your own abilities. A quote from Bill Gates:

“Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.“

How did you learn to code? What do you think this skill has added to your life – beyond providing an income? Do you think it’s helpful for more people to learn how to code? Share with us in the comments.

 

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