“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.” - Bill Gates Chairman, Microsoft
Last month, schools across the country celebrated Computer Science Education Week. To promote the importance of computer science in schools and in everyone’s lives, Code.org made history by recruiting over 19.5 million people to join in The Hour of Code project. The Hour of Code is an initiative that encourages educators and parents to give young students (grades K - 12) the opportunity to dedicate an hour to learning the basics of computer programming.
So why did this draw so much attention in the media (thanks, Obama… and many many others)? Well, for starters, 90% of schools in the US don’t offer computer programming classes.Couple that with the fact that computer programing jobs are growing at 2x the national average, and you’ve got a recipe for a huge demand gap in our country’s labor force. (Here's the full infographic from Code.org with even more alarming stats).
Computer science (abbreviated CS or CompSci) encompasses theory, mathematical activities such as design and analysis of reliability and availability of systems by probabilistic techniques. It develops computational and critical thinking skills and shows students how to create, not simply use, new technologies. With over 70% of computing occupations being outside the information technology industry, CS is fundamental knowledge needed to prepare students for the 21st century.
At allwebcafe, we see first hand through our hiring process what an impact early computer and coding education can have on a person's success and skill-set later in life. We get a wide range of qualified applicants whenever hiring for a web development position - about 70% of whom have a higher-education degree in something completely unrelated to computers. Time and time again we see that the most qualified and successful applicants (successful both here and in previous positions) are the ones who exposed themselves to computer science and coding early in life.
So about 7 out of 10 developers who apply here came out of our education system and end up completely disregarding all of the time and money they invested in their degree, and make their living working as a web developer because that’s where they can get the best jobs. By offering more of this education in our schools, as opposed to just having students find ways to learn coding on their own, the idea is to solve this problem at it's source.
Early computer science education can help to change this trend… but learning to code can also huge impact on someone’s life at any age too. Just ask Patrick McConlogue and Leo Grand.
Patrick is a developer who used to walk by the same homeless man everyday on his way to work. Wanting to help, but not being able to give much, McConlogue decided to present the man (Leo; dubbed “The Journeyman Hacker” by McConlogue) with a choice. The first option was $100 cash. No questions asked - he could take the money and that would be the end of it. The second choice was a laptop and three coding books. If Leo chose the laptop and books, Patrick would promise to leave for work an hour early each day and teach him how to code.
Leo decided on the laptop and books. Patrick believed that within eight weeks, Leo would have the necessary skills to be able to position himself as a freelancer. The two have shared their story along the way through their Facebook page and the results are truly inspiring. Instead of just freelancing Leo went on to develop and release his own app called Trees for Cars in less than 4 months, and it was released at the start of Computer Science Education Week last month.
At the end of Computer Science Eduacation Week, Code.org estimated the Hour of Code had reached twice as many U.S. students than has ever taken a computer science class. This was just an hour of code - not much to rectify the lack of CS education in the schools. The point was to get people introduced to computer science - to realize the awesomeness that it is. As that awareness grows, we hope to see an impact that goes beyond just a single week of attention every year.
If you want to learn more about The Hour of Code or get involved in spreading awareness visit Code.org.