Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

“Hour of Code” Calls on Students to Program Computers, With Support From Obama (And the Republicans, Too!)

By now you may have heard about the United States’ woeful lack of public coding classes, despite the economy’s ever-growing need for technical workers. For five years now, Computer Science Education Week has existed as a call to mobilize people to learn to program.

This year, it’s getting a little more oomph, with promotion by various tech companies of the new nonprofit’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.

Here’s the video from Obama, in which he urges, “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.”

And here’s Cantor, who says “coding is the necessary tool of this century”:

(By the way, the name “Hour of Code” is not meant to specify any specific hour, but rather the motivation for people to spend an hour learning to code at some point over the next week.)

And it’s not just political rivals coming together, but also competing companies, noted co-founder Ali Partovi. All the Apple Stores in the U.S. plan to hold an open Hour of Code class on Dec. 11 at 5 pm and all the Microsoft Retail Stores at various times this week. Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Apple, MSN, Bing and Disney will be featuring the Hour of Code on their homepages.

“When would you imagine Apple promoting tools built by Google with the face of Bill Gates?” asked Partovi.

The curriculum includes tutorials by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Bosh and Bill Gates, but the nonprofit isn’t the only one getting in on this week’s momentum; other organizations like the for-profit startup Codecademy also plan to release new tools and classes this week.

Partovi said he was particularly sensitive to criticism that promotion of computer science education by the tech industry is really just a self-serving recruiting effort.

“Hiring engineers is difficult for every company in America, not just Silicon Valley,” he said. “The majority of tech jobs are not in Silicon Valley. Our motivation is really not about jobs at all, it’s about preparing kids for life.”

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