Coding in Schools is Eating Education

Today Mayor de Blasio declared that every school in NYC will teach coding by 2025. The $81 million initiative will enable all of NYC’s 1.1 million students to have the opportunity to participate in our modern society and economy. This announcement is one more step in a clearly emerging trend in education – a trend that makes me optimistic about the future of NYC and the nation. Soon every kid will learn to code in school, and this fact is going to change everything about school, education, and the way kids learn.
Put simply, coding in schools is eating education. 
Famed venture capitalist Marc Andreesen said, “software is eating the world” by which he meant that software fundamentally changes every business in every industry. The inescapable equation for teaching coding in schools is this: if “software is eating the world” means that every business is becoming a technology business, then every job is becoming a technology job and every school must evolve to teach kids to use technology – particularly coding – to learn, understand, and communicate. Then, once students possess the fundamental literacy of coding, they can use it in any class, any subject, and any grade, to accentuate and accelerate their learning.
Many people equate teaching kids to code with after school clubs making games or Saturday-morning hackathons. That limited conception of coding misses the reality of what learning to code does for kids in school. Coding does the same thing for kids’ learning that software does for companies that build on it – it fundamentally transforms the way they think and work. Coding empowers kids to explore and engage academic topics in ways they could not without it.
Want examples?
SCIENCE: Teach middle school students to code, then in science class have them write a program for DNA translation that decodes a strand of DNA into amino acids to make a protein. They can animate it to show their friends. They can write a function for random mutations to see what happens to the protein.
The active process of creating with code will trump any other learning a school could offer. But first, we must teach every kid to code.
MATH: Don’t have students explore probabilty by rolling dice and recording results manually. Instead, have them write a program for a dice simulator that can roll repeatedly, record results automatically, and display the data. Then math teachers can ask questions about probability of compound events or how results differ with small sample sizes vs. large sample sizes.
When students create the simulator program they learn underlying math. Then the simulator gives them the power to explore the math more deeply through concrete explorations.
HISTORY: Students struggle to memorize the facts, names, and dates in history class. Why not have them create their own Jeopardy-style quiz app with questions and answers. Have the app randomize the questions, mix up answer choices, and automatically tell students if their answers are correct. Then students can quiz their friends with their app. Of course far more learning occurs when the students do the creating than when they are just being quizzed.
ENGLISH: Have students write a script for a play or a TV show as a creative writing assignment. With code that story can be transformed into something animated, visual, and interactive. It can allow other students to “play” the story as a choose-your-own-adventure game. And the creation process greatly deepens the learning.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Instead of having students memorize rules for verb conjugation written out on paper, have them code a program that conjugates verbs automatically. They need to build all the logic and rules of conjugation into the program – including any exceptions. And when they are done they will never forget because they created something instead of merely memorizing.
My point with these examples is that none of these are about creating games and none are specifically coding lessons. They are all ways that students with the fundamental digital literacy of coding can improve their learning experience in any class.
“Software is eating the world” means that every business, even those that are not “technology businesses”, must use technology to improve they way they deliver their products and services.
“Coding in schools is eating education” means that in every class, even those that appear to have no connection to technology, coding will be used to empower students to learn in more robust and effective ways – through creation and exploration.
What’s next for coding in schools?
Andreesen said, “People in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. There’s no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go.”
Yes, we have a long way to go. With this announcement we are finally on our way.
Instead of trying to figure out if we have room in our schools’ schedules for coding, or how we can find time to teach kids to code when they already have so many others subjects and all these tests to take, we must instead begin to see coding as the answer for how we improve learning itself within schools.
Progressive education, the maker movement, constructivism, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, experiential learning, critical thinking, individualized instruction. If you are interested in any of these paradigms, then providing all students with the digital literacy of coding and the tools to code in school is the key to engaging students and making school a more powerful learning environment.
The movement has been taking off for years, and this is just the latest giant step forward.
Today’s announcement takes place in a New York City where the foundations of a learn-to-code movement have been being built for years. Since being founded in 2013, CSNYC (one of the organizations behind today’s announcement) has reached over 10,000 students in over 100 schools in NYC. Girls Who Code, founded here in NYC in 2012, has already brought coding to 4,000 girls across the country and is aiming for 1 million girls by 2020. The CodeBrooklyn movement from the Brooklyn Borough President’s office is aiming to run an Hour of Code in all 500 Brooklyn schools this fall. Codesters, which I founded in 2014, is in 20 NYC DOE schools and 75 Girls Who Code clubs and will reach over 5,000 students this year. And there are many other organizations like TEALSScriptEdBootstrapScratchEdSEP, and CStuy here in NYC and across the country that are working to make coding in schools a reality.
Today’s announcement is a huge moment. It represents the tipping point in the movement to get coding into schools.
Coding in schools is eating education and I am thrilled to be part of it.

How to Launch 500 Coding Clubs

The school year has begun and with it the race to launch after-school coding clubs across the country. Girls Who Code, a visionary leader in the learn-to-code movement, is undergoing a five-fold expansion to 500 clubs this year. So how do you roll out 500 clubs, nationwide, all at once? Well, you start by entrusting the coding platform and curriculum to a partner.

Codesters is proud to be GWC’s platform and curriculum partner to help propel this extraordinary and worthwhile initiative. Girls Who Code can now spend their time and resources signing up amazing volunteers and getting girls excited about coding. As for the Python lessons, we’ve got that covered.

That’s what we do. We focus on building engaging, dynamic coding curriculum so that kids become fluent in this critical literacy. And so that kids can build stuff of course! Our platform includes a creative toolkit of code for graphics, animation, and interactivity that will empower these girls to create engaging projects and share them with their friends. And on the back end, our built-in learning management system enables GWC to flexibly enroll students into clubs, distribute coding lessons on the platform, and monitor their progress.

All the features currently available to the schools on Codesters are now helping Girls Who Code’s unprecedented movement to teach thousands of girls how to code.

We couldn’t be more thrilled for the opportunity.

Codesters at PyGotham Conference

Hi, I am one of the curriculum developers at Codesters. I wanted to share a talk that I gave at PyGotham 2015. PyGotham is New York City’s own Python language conference. It was an exciting opportunity to become better at programming and to participate in the thriving Python community.

IMG_20150815_112300This talk covers the why and the how of teaching text-based coding, particularly Python at the Middle School level. It draws on my experience teaching in mixed-ability classrooms, some of my work as a graduate student, and some of our curriculum features at Codesters. People who use and contribute to Python are dedicated to giving back through education and the development of open-source resources; so the talk was well received.

My talk was during the first session of the first day of the conference and it opened up a discussion that was ongoing on twitter and in between sessions. Several of the attendees I spoke with volunteer their time to contribute to open-source education projects or work for local Girls Who Code programs in addition to their jobs as developers. IMG_20150815_112327I also spoke with two dedicated teachers from The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria and the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering. Other speakers continued the conversation on and off the stage. Keynote speaker, Jessica McKellar, discussed the importance of Python as an education language at all levels. Nick Coghlan, also a keynote speaker, talked about making open source projects successful including those dedicated to education.

At Codesters we are excited to participate in active programming and education communities. If you want to get involved or know of people or organizations we should be aware of, tweet at us @icodeinschool. You can also tweet me directly @teach_python.

Meg Ray
Curriculum Developer at Codesters
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Inspiring Leadership on Coding in NYC Schools

On Friday, in an op ed in the NY Daily News, New York City’s schools chancellor Carmen Fariña made a strong case for teaching coding in schools. She argues that if we want students to “go out into the world knowing they can do anything” then it is crucial to teach them STEM skills, particularly coding. She goes on to say, “we’re training the next generation of citizens and our future workforce.”

Chancellor Fariña believes that a key to success is “bringing together our public and private sectors to create more STEM programs available to students of all ages” and mentions three programs supported by AT&T that partner with DOE: the Software Engineering Pilot (“SEP”), Girls Who Code, and Pathfinders. We wholeheartedly agree and are proud to partner with all three of these excellent programs. Codesters hosts interns from Pathfinders and provides our platform and coding curriculum to SEP schools and to Girls Who Code clubs across the US.

Chancellor Fariña is joined by other city leaders, prominent institutions, and corporations in the work to expand coding in schools. The ​New York City Foundation for Computer Science (“CSNYC”), started by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, funds programs such as SEP and district schools such as the Academy for Software ​for Software Engineering (“AFSE”). CSNYC has already helped bring coding education to 100 schools as part of its mission to “to ensure that all of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students have access to a high-quality computer science education”. Microsoft, together with CSNYC, support the TEALS program that brings volunteer software engineers into city public high schools to teach coding. Google has launched CSFirst, creating new after-school coding clubs across the city. And under the leadership of Senior Director of K-12 education, Diane Levitt, the city’s investment in Cornell Tech is already producing tangible outcomes in growing coding programs in the city’s public schools.

​Working directly with, and listening to, local communities in neighborhoods across the city will be key to the success of these efforts. In Brooklyn, ​Borough​ President Eric Adams is collaborating with CEC members, community leaders, principals, ​teachers, and parents​ on a campaign to make Brooklyn the first of the boroughs to offer coding in every school, which an emphasis on helping schools with less economically less advantaged communities.​ Adams sees that a critical success factor to these efforts to expand coding in schools will be the input, buy-in, and support of all New Yorkers.

​What all these leaders recognize is​ that getting coding into schools is a ​means to ​ensuring that all students have access to opportunities in our future economy. Fariña’s statements and these various city and local initiatives are signs that New York City​ is arriving at the critical moment when we rise to the challenge of getting coding into schools. The Codesters team is excited to be part of the movement and I am personally inspired by the leadership I am witnessing.

Gordon Smith
Head Codester
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Codesters at ISTE Conference

Codesters just returned from our first ISTE conference. Twenty hours of exhibiting is exhausting, but it is also inspiring. Teachers, school librarians, school and district technology coordinators, principals, technology trainers, and district representatives are actively working to bring programming into classrooms across the globe. Seeing attendee after attendee get so excited for our platform and curriculum crystallized for me what makes us different.

Meg Ray, of the Codesters Team, demonstrating how our platform works.
Meg Ray, of the Codesters Team, demonstrating how our platform works.

A teacher from a school in California for students who are at risk of dropping out was happy that we teach Python, a professional programming language. He explained to me that he wants to use Codesters because his students need to go beyond block-based languages so that they have more opportunities open to them in life. A teacher from Virginia, told me that the district wants all of her 6th graders to start learning code. She wants to use Codesters because she found four ways that the drag-and-drop toolkit will allow her to differentiate in her mixed-ability classroom, just during our short demo.

ISTE is a reminder of just how passionate our team is about making programming accessible to all middle school students! School’s out for teachers and

students, and we are busy gearing up for a school year full of code.


Check out our Facebook page for more pictures.

You can also see more highlights at ISTE Highlights