Education

Code.org: Students wrote 500,000,000 lines of code in a single week

Above: Code.org brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi

In a single week, students at schools across the U.S. wrote 500,000,000 lines of code as part of Computer Science Education Week, organizers said.

By contrast, it took Google almost seven years to recruit student developers to write just 50 million lines for its Summer of Code program. Microsoft Windows runs on an estimated 50 million lines of code.

How was this feat achieved in one week?

A campaign, dubbed Hour of Code, kicked off last Monday with support from computer education nonprofit Code.org, and school districts across the country. Code.org founders Ali and Hadi Partovi spoke at our DevBeat conference in October, and described how computer science education is declining. It’s taught in just five percent of U.S. schools.

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

The Partovi brothers realized that Computer Science Education Week was coming up in December, but no one had heard of it. So they timed Hour of Code with this week, and rallied support from friends in high places, including celebrities and politicians in the highest echelons of government. President Barack Obama even issued a video statement to encourage students to participate.

“The night before it started, we had 4.5 million students registered and we were up at 2am wondering whether our servers could handle the load,” said Ali. “And we held up, handling 3 million kids on day one and 15 million by the end of the week.”

“I don’t know of any new product or service in history that has opened its doors to that kind of traffic,” he said.

The efforts appear to have paid off.

The brothers shared an infographic with VentureBeat this morning to demonstrate the campaign’s reach. According to Code.org’s data:

  • More girls participated in computer science classes than in the past 70 years.
  • 1 in 5 students did an hour of code.
  • 15 million students learned 1 hour of code

The campaign is not without its skeptics. As Slashdot points out, not every student finished the hour-long computer tutorial. It’s important to question numbers like these, as it’s not easy to count up lines of code from disparate sources.

Indeed, it’s valuable to recognize the limitations of short-term campaigns. It’s not enough to get students programming for mere minutes — schools need to build a coding curriculum. It won’t be easy — in Chicago, teachers said most schools do not carry the necessary equipment and resources to support computer science classes. In many school districts, Wi-Fi is simply too slow, and access to computers is limited.

Only time will tell whether one hour (or less) of programming will make an impact in the long-run. All in all, it’s an extremely impressive start.

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Infographic via Code.org

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