Hello, I’m a computer science teacher. Every day, I read another article about another venture, online or face-to-face, that seeks to teach kids to code. We’ll make it fun, they say. I appreciate the effort. If anything, you’ve at least made learning to code look like “the thing to do.” You’re like the iPhones of coding. No one wanted a smartphone until the iPhone came out. That’s all good. That makes what I do a little easier to explain. But if you really want kids to learn to code (and I’m uncertain that that’s you’re real goal), then don’t make yet another tool or start yet another class that’s separate from your nearby school. If you make a tool, share it for free with your school district.1 Contact a science or math teacher and help them learn to use the tool. Host a workshop for local teachers. Hire those teachers for your summer camps. They will share with you how learning actually works so that you can make your tool better. That’s been the model MIT’s Scratch has used. It works pretty well.
Better yet, if you really want kids to learn to code, provide money to teachers and schools for training and buying equipment (like actual computers to code on) through a grant program. Or work on policy at the local, state and national level to incorporate Computer Science into the curriculum. There are organizations like CSTA that are doing this already. Maybe you can help them. Washington State recently decided that AP CS counts as math or science for graduation requirements. That will get CS and learning to code into the curriculum.
See, all this stuff you’re doing does a lot for publicity, but I’m afraid you’re working against actual change. And you’re working against (in some cases) diversifying the field.2 Who has the time and luxury to go to summer camp? To work on their on with an online program? People who have resources and time. People who are likely already thinking about computer science as a field. Often not women. Often not students of color. So, again, I appreciate the effort, but I think it’s time you did this a little more thoughtfully and maybe talked to some educators and schools. Get out of your Silicon Valley bubble for a bit and deal with some of the realities facing teachers and students. Because we do want to teach kids to code and we do want your help, but you need to work with us.
Geeky Mom, teacher
1I’m starting to see tools that aren’t free, not to schools, certainly not to individuals.
2The exceptions are things like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Who Code as well as CodeNow, which target underrepresented groups.