UW CRPE Talk with Hadi Partovi

This week I had the chance to attend a talk by Hadi Partovi of Code.Org.  The topic of computer science education, particularly as it relates to STEM and domain scientists, is one that is near and dear to VISTAS’ heart.  The live stream of the event can be viewed at http://www.crpe.org/events/washington-education-innovation-forum

And here is Code.Org’s original promotional video.

The talk opened with Ed Lazowska, chair of Computer Science at UW.  He spoke about how every field in STEM is becoming a computational field, but how there is an enormous work force gap in CompSci, including a large diversity gap.  He cited a study that found 71% of ALL new STEM jobs in the next decade will be in computing.  Biologists, chemists, physicists, you name it– everyone in Science and Engineering will need computational skills to be competitive in their field.

However, there is a BIG problem– only 10% of High Schools in the United States currently offer ANY computer science curriculum.  Whereas chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics are required curriculum for high schools, Computer Science is largely ignored.

The original goal of “Hour of Code” was to get every school to, at least for one hour per year, to introduce students to programming concepts and computational thinking.  Code.Org supplies teachers with training materials and interactive exercises.  “Hour of Code” has been EXTREMELY successful, and Code.Org is now moving on to create captivating CompSci educational material across every single grade, K-12.

The talk then opened up into a panel with Hadi Partovi, founder of Code.Org, and WA State Representative Reuven Carlyle.  Also on the panel were two young high school girls who had gotten hooked on programming via Code.Org — they were the comic relief on the panel, as well as the voice of the students.

I won’t recite the panel’s discussion verbatim, but here are some bullet points:

  • In Washington State, there are currently 27 open jobs in Computer Science per Computer Science graduate.
  • 70% of STEM jobs in the next decade will be in computing; but only 2% of all STEM students are Computer Scientists.
  • “Hour of Code” had 20 million students within a week of launch.
  • 1 in 3 students in the US have now participated in “Hour of Code”.
  • Hour of Code continues to get about 15,000 students a week.
  • There are now approximately 30 school districts across the US directly partnering with Code.Org to provide computer science education.
  • 99% of all teachers who use Code.Org with their students say they’ll use it again next year.  Yes, 99%.
  • Many states are now changing policies to allow credit for CS classes.
  • Texas just ruled EVERY High School in Texas must now teach Computer Science, Just 49 more states to go…

There were also some good questions from the audience.  A teacher expressed, with some frustration, that school teachers already have VERY full plates– how can they squeeze in Computer Science as well?

Hadi’s advice — use Computer Science to teach the other stuff!  CS can help teach people math, English, etc.  For example, the Pythagorean Theorem is funner to learn via programming a basketball game than in the traditional way.

Overall it was a really interesting panel.  I definitely wish “Hour of Code” had been around when I was in High School, and I think it’s wild success is definitely getting people thinking more about the Computer Science education gap.

About the Author: Justin
A 34 year old Software Engineer in Seattle, WA with a love for coding, music, video games, and the great outdoors.
Author Website: http://www.justinmangue.com

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