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Learning to Code

Google Edu Efforts

Google recently relaunched its site targeted for educators and MindShift wrote a great overview of all the new changes and features. My favorite aspect of Google’s education efforts is their Computer Science for High School Program (c4hs), that provides grants for universities around the world to help “promote Computer Science and Computational Thinking in high school and middle school curriculum.” They are currently accepting applications until March 3 for their 2012 grants, so if you know anyone who might be interested, please encourage them to apply.

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Learning to Code

My so-coding life

Just over the past few weeks I’ve read about several initiatives to help teach anyone basic coding skills.  As I work on my second lesson from Code Year (Week 2: functions in javascript), my mind wanders back to the few CS classes I took in undergrad almost 10 years ago and I’m seriously impressed by how much easier and accessible this content is for anyone who wants to learn to code. (The desire to learn is a big part and I’ll come back to this.) In just about a week, over 350,000 people signed up for the CodeYear program, designed by the Codecademy team (the darling of the most recent YC batch) that raised $2.5M just a couple months after launching last August. (Those growth numbers are amazing and Fred Wilson does a great job outlining some of the factors that contributed to those sign-ups.)

Adding to that buzz, Codecademy announced an abbreviated version of Code Year, CodeSummer+, in partnership with the White House and their Summer Jobs+ Program to “ provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth in the summer of 2012.” It is wonderful to see the various startups and government officials that are coming together to build off this momentum and create resources & programs that are needed in schools & communities across the country. However, I think the more important points of this announcement are the offline meetups and Q&A forums. While delivering content online is efficient, scalable and allows for self-paced learning, learning is inherently social so these 2 aspects of their program are crucial to reaching the goal of actually teaching people to code. Combining their online content with offline interactions to create a blended learning model is a smart approach that other hot digital learning startups, such as Khan Academy, are developing as well to reach key learning goals.

And speaking of learning goals, I’m curious to see some of the assessments that go along with Code Year to help confirm that I am, in fact, becoming a hacker. (Of course I’m also relying on several other online resources as well as direct instruction from my sometimes not-so-patient hacker husband.)

Back to an earlier point…One of the key drivers to learning anything is interest, so in order for these types of programs to be successful the first step is actually to foster the desire for people to want to code. Coming from the Silicon Valley, it’s fairly obvious to many of us, but convincing a middle/high school student from another environment is slightly more challenging. That is what excites me most about The Academy for Software Engineering, NY’s first public high school that will actually train kids to develop software. Beyond being open to any student that is interested and focusing on diversity in STEM fields, the school is focusing on 9th graders and helping plant the seed of why coding is an important and necessary skill. I believe igniting that interest in 14 year olds is what will truly lead to a world of coders.

And in contributing to that larger teach-the-world-to-code vision and my own personal goals, I should get back to my lesson.

Categories
Learning to Code

Inspiring girls to code

Last night I attended a wonderful event supporting the Technovation Challenge, an inspiring program started by a friend of mine, Anu Tewary, to encourage high school girls to pursue STEM-related careers. This video captures the essence of the program and illustrates how participants learn about product development, design-thinking and programming through building Android Apps, such as World MPowered. The event, hosted at Andreessen Horowitz, centered around a panel of several high profile women in technology including Marissa Mayer, Padmasree Warrior, Freada Kapor Klein and Angela Benton. While the speakers were notable, what was even more impressive were the people in the standing-room-only crowd which included bright female entrepreneurs, like Leah Busque from Task Rabbit and Alexis Ringwald.

The main goal of the evening was to share inspiring stories of women in technology and to encourage the attendees to pay-it-forward by mentoring girls through the Technovation Challenge. Anyone can get involved by helping spread the word or signing up to be a mentor. The success of programs such as this, and others offered through Iridescent, is vital to building a diverse pipeline of women entrepreneurs and developers, and showing girls that it’s actually cool to be a geek.