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How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms 132

theodp writes: Noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook's advice for President Trump at last week's White House gathering of the Tech Titans was that "coding should be a requirement in every public school," the New York Times examines How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms (Warning: source may be paywalled). "The Apple chief's education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools," writes Natasha Singer. "But even without Mr. Trump's support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda -- thanks largely to the marketing prowess of, an industry-backed nonprofit group." Singer continues: "In a few short years, has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Hadi Partovi, co-founder of, said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried. Along the way, has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers -- touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain. The rise of coincides with a larger tech-industry push to remake American primary and secondary schools with computers and learning apps, a market estimated to reach $21 billion by 2020." Singer also mentions Apple's work to spread computer science in schools. The company launched a free app last year called Swift Playgrounds to teach basic coding in Swift, as well as a yearlong curriculum for high schools and community colleges to teach app design in Swift.
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How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms

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  • Want coding taught in schools. How about a common coding language based soundly upon English grammar and maths formulas. The tech titan morons can not even decide whether the alphabet should be A B C or Q W E, why should we take advice from those morons, when their core interest is only teaching the coding language that favours their bottom line and fuck the rest. Hell, they want to ban OSs, ban competing languages, lock up data, force purchase of software by students and make them learn their QWEs, from t

    • How about changing the ridiculous calculus notations and standardizing on ANY of the existing languages of computation. Even a short BASIC program is better than the 100 different notations a mathematician might use, because programming languages remove ambiguity. "This for sure computes it."

      I had a laugh awhile back watching a mathematician on youtube... "..we are running out of letters... lets see.... ok lets use zeta.. oh, wait... already using that one"
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Which ever way it happens, fine. Change english, change maths formulas, create a uniform base coding language, even change the alphabet to Q W E R T Y but do real stuff don't waffle bullshit to fill corporate coffers. Create a working body involving government and universities, with limited input from corporate players (they will lie, cheat and steal for advantage so inherently will be obstructive rather than constructive) and have at it. The current bullshit is just crap, each lying corporate player trying

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cobal was written to use english grammer and math forumlas, it's horrible to program in

  • Fantastic resource (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @07:23AM (#54711153)

    I teach IT/Computing to 4-11-year-olds and is a fantastic, free and invaluable resource. The activities I use (Course 1-3) build up familiarity with block-based coding, which can lead into Scratch for the old children and into secondary/high school. The kids really enjoy the activities and the activities have a nice steady learning curve so 90% of the time they can get on without me having to stop the whole class to explain something. So everyone learns at their own pace and the brighter ones can get further in and really be challenged without having to be held up to wait for others to catch up. Since it is so visual, it even caters to the poor readers and poor English language skills and gives them a rare lesson where they're on a par with the others.
    Everything I've used so far has been free which is also a boon when my IT budget is basically zero thanks to cuts in school budget. Any time you see 'education' attached to software you usually have to pay through the nose for something that is buggy, teaching outdated skills or technology, and that invariably runs only on XP and has a critical install disc that someone has lost.
    For the age range I'm looking at, it's teaching the right kind of problem solving skills that can be picked up when they move onto Python or whatever textual language their secondary school decides to use.
    So despite whatever misgivings you have about the motives of Silicon Valley in providing this resource, it's hard to argue that as an educational resource it is anything less than excellent.

    • With all due respect, I hope you also give a lesson on how to compete with a foreign programmer making $5 a day along with those coding lessons. Otherwise one of your students might get the idea that it is a good thing to base their career on.
  • There doesn't need to be a huge amount of time spent on this. not everyone needs to become a programmer.

    But there needs to be enough exposure to demystify the field. Students should come out of school with a basic understanding of the different fields available.

    at this point the number of people who are never going to do any trivial programming (spreadsheet formulas and setting things to happen in sequence count) is getting smaller and smaller, so expose everyone to the ideas early. Then let them figure wha

  • Wondering if the site was built by people learning in the project classes. It ask me my language every new page load, the previously chosen language is not selected, and sometimes, after select the language, it redirects to a 404 page.
  • by Highdude702 ( 4456913 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @07:34AM (#54711205)

    I remember in middle school Spanish was a requirement to graduate and go to high school. Yet most people that took that class left without knowing anything they didn't already know. And also most of the Latin American kids failed the class. Even when they could have full conversations in Spanish or a dialect of. But us fair skinned people could barely say "hi my name is Apple"

    • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @07:44AM (#54711239)

      It's like you read my mind. This line of thinking shows we've got a long way to go. The bureaucrats just do not get it. It's sad.

      In order for one's efforts to succeed, the reward at the end MUST fill a real need. That's one reason those who speak multiple languages do speak them; and they succeed with much less resources.

      Things aren't simply hammered into their heads.

      I guess, like many competent folk here, I am wasting my time.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      I had a similar experience with French, though the reason was different: students who were motivated to learn French and used it did well, those who completed it as a requirement tended to do poorly. Yet that does not mean that you stop mandating things in the curriculum.

      Granted, I am a firm believer that students should be exposed to "coding" in the lower grades and should have the option to take computer programming or computer science in high school. The former is to expose kids to programming and as a

    • In Canada everybody is required to take french up until grade 9 as a regular course. About 40 minutes a day of french, from kindergarten up to grade 8, and a full course in grade 9. Even after all that, the actual number of people who can hold a conversation in french is quite low among those who didn't grow up in a french family or didn't take more extensive french immersion classes.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Because they're required to put your ass in a seat in a "French class". Clearly they aren't being required to actually teach French.

    • Meh.

      Listen, to some extent, you could make that argument about any class. There are people who graduate from high school without being able to perform simple arithmetic or string a grammatically correct sentence together. That doesn't mean there's no point in having math or English classes.

      Also, for something like programming classes in particular, I don't think it's terribly important that every kid leaves those classes being able to program. Even if it increases the number of kids who vaguely underst

    • I remember in middle school Spanish was a requirement to graduate and go to high school.

      That seems unlikely. It's more likely that a year of some foreign language was required. Perhaps your school only offered Spanish.

      Yet most people that took that class left without knowing anything they didn't already know.

      If that's true, it's because your teacher was terrible, but I suspect that it's nonsense. Oh, I'm sure that kids didn't finish a year of middle school Spanish being able to speak the language, but that is far from the same this as not having learned anything. Learning even the rudiments of a foreign language exposes you to a lot of important ideas. It teaches a little bit of cul

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      But language education can work. Just not the way we do it in the US.

      When we hosted a high school student from Hamburg, all the German kids spoke perfect idiomatic English and could follow a conversation at full speed, even though Boston area speakers are among the fastest in the US. These kids didn't speak English at home (although their parents could), they learned at school.

      • That is sort of a survivorship bias. There are several types of secondary schools here in Germany and usually only the kids from the most advanced type go abroad. At this type of school language education is generally quite good and most students are able to speak two foreign languages with a certain degree of fluency - two foreign languages are required, but the fluency can vary. Usually only the best among them go for a long trip abroad (half a year or so), the whole class goes only for shorter tris - a w

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          Granted, the gymnasium was one of the top schools in its area; however I doubt you could find that many students as fluent in conversational German in the entire state. The best schools turn out a handful of kids each year who can ask for directions to the library or how much something in a shop costs.

          I would be astonished if you could find a thousand high school seniors in the entire US public school system who could, say, discuss their favorite movie in a foreign language they learned exclusively in schoo

    • But us fair skinned people could barely say "hi my name is Apple"

      Hola. Yo tango spanishwordforname es spanishwordforapple.

      A few others phrases that I recall from three years of Spanish:

      Cuantos anos tu tienes? (how many years do you have aka how old are you)
      Que hora es? (What time is it?)
      Usted y yo (You and I (name of the first book I was learning from))
      Donde vives tu la familia? (Where does your family live?)

      El bano (bathroom)
      Amor (love)

      And that is about it. Three years in class and that is all that I learned... Definitely worth it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        > Cuantos anos tu tienes?

        I have one anus, why do you ask??

  • Seriously, as someone who's been doing the IT thing for 20 years and actually likes teaching new people the ins and outs of the job -- where else are you going to get your newbies from? I've seen so many people say teaching development and IT is a waste of time because all the work is going offshore, and it crowds out existing workers, and the kids won't learn anything anyway. I remember and use a tiny fraction of what I was taught in school; not everything has to have an immediate ROI and it helps to have

  • Teaching code to kids makes as much sense as teaching them law. Good coding requires a comprehension of several fundamentals. You can't jump over these basics. What you first need to develop in kids is critical thinking and problem solving skills. Marry that with an understanding of logic and basic concepts like variables, arrays and loops, and maybe by the time kids get to high school they have the fundamentals to write functional software. Sure, if a kid wants to jump in on this earlier, super, but thinki
    • Of course the computer science discipline builds upon many others, however, for just plonking down some code, you need very little.

      Personally, I started in BASIC before I could read in my native language, so my parents had to read the one instruction book we had to me. Then I went off pondering. It took years before I actually understood the literal meaning of the English keywords like FOR, GOTO, RETURN, etc. I just knew how they behaved in code.

      Granted, this required endless trail and error, and a level of

  • How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms

    Brilliant title. Silicon Valley which is located in the state of California in the United States of America manages to get coding into American Classrooms. Mind blown.

  • I've been saying this for years: make Computer Science (theoretical math, logic, basic linguistics) a mandatory subject in K12 education alongside (applied) math, science, etc. Also, yank pre-calculus and calculus (save it for physics majors in college, offer it as a math elective in high school) and offer statistics for students advanced enough to get that far. Statistical illiteracy is one of the main drivers behind our fake news problem.

    Brian Krebs agrees with me, citing this as Why So Many Top Hack []

  • "How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms"

    Does it have anything to do with the 'news stories' they paid the editors to run in publications like this?

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @12:47PM (#54713293)

    Back in the 1980s and 1990s it was more or less normal to have programming lesions in school. It was only in the 1990s when companies shipped computers without BASIC Interpreters, and marketing claimed that you could productively use computers without being able to program. Learning how to use Office 95 was enough.

    Now they complain about the lost generation of people having been trained only to be dumb consumers.

  • The best programmers have a basic skillset that is not present in the vast majority of elementary school children. It is learned through other coursework that sets a solid foundation. What they will create through these programs is a vast army of people with a knowledge of being able to program, that can't program to the level needed for quality robust applications.

    Far better would be to teach the basics needed to become a good programmer. Logic, breaking large problems into smaller tractable problems, ta
  • I'm a software engineer with a MS in CompSci. I don't think programming should be required in K12 programs. I'd be happy with schools having survey of computation type class which imparts a high level understanding of how networking, computers, handheld devices, gaming systems, web technology, etc work. Include a small unit with basic programming in it, sure. One should not be clueless about how technology works in our world, but most people don't and won't ever write code. Of course, programming should

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