Dev

Code.org creators: Coding is a privilege, and it’s not yet available to most Americans

Hadi and Ali Partovi

Above: Hadi and Ali Partovi

SAN FRANCISCO — On Feb. 26, the video that trended higher than Jennifer Lawrence’s adorable fall at the Oscars was on the topic of coding education.

The short YouTube film, dubbed “What most schools don’t teach,” features interviews with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. The goal, according to the video’s creator Hadi Partovi, is to make coding seem cool to kids.

The video went viral and turned Partovi into one of the best-known advocates for computer education. The serial entrepreneur has subsequently been generating buzz and raising funds for his computer education nonprofit Code.org.

Partovi and his twin brother Ali spoke onstage at VentureBeat’s DevBeat conference today. The brothers have started numerous Internet businesses together, including music application iLike, which MySpace acquired.

“Coding is a privilege,” said Ali. “But that privilege is not available to most Americans.”

Indeed, the statistics may surprise you. “Only 10 percent of American schools teach computer science; girls and minorities are woefully excluded,” the Partovi brothers wrote in a recent blog post on VentureBeat. Contrary to expectations, the proportion of female students opting to study computer science has decreased since the 1990s.

The solution is to make programming far more accessible; the norm even. At DevBeat, the Partovis spoke in some detail about their upcoming Hour of Code campaign, which takes place during Computer Education Week (Dec. 9-15).

In the course of the week, teachers in classrooms across America will be encouraged to teach programming for one hour. This may be as simple as introducing a class to a coding education game on Code.org, so kids can come to grips with basic concepts like loops, “if statements,” functions, and variables.

“We’re hoping to modernize the school curriculum to make coding easier to teach,” said Hadi Partovi, who pulled up a slide to demonstrate that only about 2 percent of children studying STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are computer programmers. Meanwhile, an estimated 60 percent of jobs available to STEM graduates are rooted in computer science.

“This is something every kid needs to have some basic understanding of,” he concluded.

Need inspiration to starting learning to code? Check out the video below, where Zuck explains how he wrote his first program.

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