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The “learn to code” frenzy is at a fever pitch, and that’s a good thing. Not only are our employers asking for far more Software Engineers than our education system currently provides, but coding teaches valuable general skills like problem solving, engineering and even research (the most common answer to a coding issue is “Google it”). The focus in creating a tidal wave of programmers has been on professionals looking to improve their career outlook and bringing computer science to middle and high schools. On this second point, there is a second talent shortage that is critically important to address, but has received relatively little attention: training teachers. Code.org has been leading the charge in filling in this piece of the puzzle.
USA Today’s Jessica Guynn recently reported on Code.org’s efforts, and the broader challenge of training teachers:
“Code.org says it's gaining momentum in its mission to get every U.S. school to add computer science to its curriculum. Founder Hadi Partovi told USA TODAY that Code.org and its partners this year trained more than 15,000 teachers who will bring computer science instruction into their classrooms.
Code.org estimates those teachers will reach more than 600,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade, many of whom are frequently overlooked by the tech industry: 43% are female and 37% are either African American or Latino.
Code.org is part of a national movement in education. Coding classes are popping up in high schools and in lower grades across the country. And those classes may have the potential to address unequal access to computer science education in the USA.”
Efforts like these are the difference between coming up with a solution and actually implementing it. Luring Software Engineers into teaching, where the salaries are considerably lower, is often not a feasible option. Training those already skilled and passionate about education, on the other hand, is. Train the teachers, teach the kids.
Recently, partner school Telegraph Academy worked with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) on a teacher training initiative, as part of their effort to bring coding education to every public school in San Francisco.
“We’re really excited about expanding computer science to all students,” said Bryan Twarek of SFUSD. “It’s something that very few people are doing and doing well yet.” Twarek added that of the teachers that attended the weeklong training, “one hundred percent said this compared better to other professional development trainings.”
Educating young kids in new economy skills doesn’t result in inspiring career transformations or rags to riches stories, but if we really believe in computer science as an important life skill for the coming decades, these are the challenges we need to be taking on. Those doing so should be lauded for their efforts.