This week is Computer Science Education Week, and more than 30,000 schools all around the world will be dedicating at least one solid hour to teaching their students about software development in an initiative headed up by Code.org titled “Hour of Code”:
“….Code.org’s Hour of Code” initiative, five million students committed to participate globally at 33,000 schools in 166 countries, and endorsements by celebrities and public figures including both U.S. President Barack Obama and his political foil House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.” – “Hour of Code Calls on Students to Program Computers”, AllThingsD
This video from President Obama encourages students to dig in and create; he asks kids to “don’t just buy a new video game, make one. Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program. No one’s born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one.” Watch the video below:
This ground-breaking push is getting amazing corporate support from a wide variety of technology partners, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Disney. Code.org founder Hadi Partovi had this to say about the Hour of Code:
“Although only 10 percent of schools teach computer science classes, even one hour of exposure can be enough to change a student’s life, as it did mine.” Code.org founder Hadi Partovi said in a statement today. “In the 21st century, this isn’t just a course you study to get a job in software – it’s important to learn even if you want to be a nurse, a journalist, an accountant, a lawyer or even a president.” – www.code.org
Here's a video featuring several celebrities interacting with two young girls who are teaching them to write a simple program:
On the official Computer Science Education Week website, there are a wide variety of free beginner’s tutorials that are being offered this week, including:
- Code.org: “Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms. Available in 20 languages.”
- Scratch (MIT): Make your own interactive holiday card.
- Tynker: A collection of 8 fun activities for children of all ages to try programming. Solve a series of simple puzzles to help Pixel the puppy reach home, and Biff the spaceman reach his moon base. Build the Space Zombies game or create Math Art using our fun and easy visual approach to programming. The session can be teacher facilitated or self-paced.
- LightBot: Learn core programming logic, starting from super-basic programming, for ages 4+, on iOS or Android (or Web browser). Learn how to sequence commands, identify patterns, use procedures, and utilize loops.
- MIT App Inventory: Entertaining, quick video tutorials walk you through building three simple apps for your Android phone or tablet. Designed for novices and experts alike, this hour of code will get you ready to start building your own apps before you know it. These activities are suitable for individuals and for teachers leading classes.
- MakeGamesWithUs: Know some programming already? Learn to make an iPhone game in an hour! We'll guide you through the process, to code, test, and play your game entirely in the browser and then share it on Facebook for friends to try! No prior iPhone development experience is required. You must understand what variables, methods, and objects are.
- RunRev: Everyone can Code with LiveCode contains 6 video lessons including an introduction to The LiveCode environment. It will show you how to make the popular "Sheepherder" game featured on YouTube. Watch each short video and follow along using the step by step written documentation. All the game code is available for you to copy and paste, with clear explanations of how and why it works. You will be provided with necessary images and samples for download.
The need for STEM classes
There’s no doubt that there is a desperate need for software developers and people who know their way around app development, and occupational statistics seem to bear this out; for example, in 2010, there were over 900,000 available jobs for software developers, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number is expected to grow by 30% between 2012 and 2020. How does that compare to expected job growth for all other U.S. occupations? According to the same source, software developers will outdo the average growth curve by 16%:
“Employment of software developers is projected to grow 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of applications developers is projected to grow 28 percent, and employment of systems developers is projected to grow 32 percent.
The main reason for the rapid growth is a large increase in the demand for computer software. Mobile technology requires new applications. Also, the healthcare industry is greatly increasing its use of computer systems and applications. Finally, concerns over cyber security should result in more investment in security software to protect computer networks and electronic infrastructure.” Software Developers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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. 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 stats from USA Today and Microsoft’s TechNet:
- 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
- less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, yet computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average and are among the top paying fields
- Of the 42,000 high schools in the U.S., just over 3,000 offer Advanced Placement computer science classes. One of the reasons is the lack of qualified teachers. However, another factor is the fact that only 14 states and our nation’s capital count computer science toward core high school math or science credits required for graduation.
Computer science is not actually recognized as an official math or science course offering; in fact, in many school districts it’s actually classified as an elective. And while computer science initiatives like the Hour of Code are greatly helpful, it’s hard to learn how to code when basic computer connectivity is still an issue in 2013:
“Paulette Smith, principal of Joaquin Miller Elementary School in Oakland, signed up her school for Hour of Code. She said it will likely take some time for entire school districts like Oakland to join, because many schools are still behind on basic technology equipment. “It’s not consistent,” she said. “Some of our schools have up-to-date computer labs; some of them don’t have any at all.” Smith added that “the district is still putting a lot of time and money into building out infrastructure, so the Internet is not crashing every day.” – “Hour of Code aims to ease programming crunch”, blogs.wsj.com
Coding: an extremely useful skill-set
Initiatives like the Hour of Code and an entire week dedicated to computer science are incredibly useful for furthering the cause of getting more people interested in learning how to develop useful software. 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? What do you think might be the most helpful way for kids to learn how to code? Do you think coding should be taught in schools? Share with us in the comments.