What 30,000 Schools are Teaching this Week

What 30,000 Schools are Teaching this Week


“Don’t just play on your phone, program it.”

These words from U.S. President Barack Obama kick off the start of Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-15), a worldwide effort from governments, companies, non-profits and academics across different disciplines and industries to promote the subject in schools and classrooms.

Despite the prominence of apps, gadgets and even tech celebrities in popular culture, students rarely get exposure to computer science in schools. According to Code.org, a Seattle-based non-profit spearheading CSEdWeek, 9 out of 10 schools don’t teach it. And that’s troubling for all industries--and not just those in Silicon Valley. From agriculture to writing, computing has changed every profession--and will continue to do so at an even faster rate.

Many companies are partnering with Code.org for the Hour of Code, a series of free, online exercises designed to raise awareness and interest in computer science among students and teachers. Code.org’s preparation tips for participating teachers are quite detailed and resemble a lesson plan itself.

Code.org created the beginner tutorial track that covers basic programming logic. In these game-like exercises, which borrow graphics from Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, students use a visual interface to drag-and-drop commands that move a character from one point to another. They're guided by accompanying videos from Chris Bosh, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg that explain concepts like repeat loops and if-then statements.

Other Hour of Code exercises on JavaScript and iPhone programming are available through Code.org partners including Khan Academy, LightBot and Grok Learning. Code.org is also offering comprehensive course packages, which includes training and materials, for districts committed to teaching computer science regularly throughout the year. These courses will be free (but are not without some controversy.)

From Iceland to New Zealand, over 35,000 organizers and 4.6 million students across 167 countries have registered to participate in the Hour of Code. Companies are getting in on the action as well. Google’s homepage “Doodle” currently celebrates the birthday Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist, and links to the Hour of Code. Apple stores will be offering a free one-hour programming workshop on December 11. Microsoft will do the same for its 51 stores throughout the week.

As if these efforts weren’t enough, Code.org has released another star-studded video featuring celebrities like Shakira, Ashton Kutcher and athletes like Dwight Howard. Politicians are also onboard: here’s Newt Gingrich fiddling around on his iPad. And Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, offers his support in a video titled “One thing Republicans and Democrats agree on?

By 2020, Code.org hopes computer science will be recognized and offered as part of the math and science curriculum in every school. It's a lofty goal, but one we can all agree on.

For more on computer science in schools, check out our guide, “Teaching Kids to Code,” featuring op-eds from leading entrepreneurs and teachers, along with a list of popular online coding tools. We will update this throughout the week.

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