Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey – it’s little surprise that those titans of tech want to encourage more wannabe coders. But in a short film released Tuesday by the nonprofit Code.org, it’s not just the usual suspects talking up all the reasons why the U.S. needs more computer scientists.
Sure, Silicon Valley luminaries share the stories of their humble beginnings (Gates says his first program was for tic-tac-toe). But NBA all-star Chris Bosh talks about coding in college before joining the Miami Heat and the Black-Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am says “great coders are today’s rockstars.”
The message of the film – just like the over-arching theme of the nonprofit: the country needs more coders and, really, it’s not as hard as you think.
Code.org, which launched last month, was founded by brothers Ali and Hadi Partovi to bring more attention to the need for more coders and increase computer programming education opportunities at schools around the country. As evidence of the problem, it says:
- Less than two percent of students study computer programming – tripling that could close the gap between students and jobs
- In 41 states, computer science doesn’t count toward high school graduation requirements
- Programming jobs are growing at double the pace of other jobs but programming is not offered at 90 percent of U.S. schools
Code.org’s site offers learn-to-code tools supplied by Khan Academy, Codecademy and Scratch. And it’s enlisted big-name supporters from different industries to help with its campaign. Other tech leaders include Marc Andreesen, Ron Conway and Sheryl Sandberg, but it’s also recruited politicians Al Gore and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the presidents or deans of Stanford and Harvard, celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Bono and top scientists and doctors.
The short film, which was directed by Lesley Chilcott (producer of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman), will be distributed to teachers and classrooms across the country. And, according to The Seattle Times, Microsoft is paying to have the movie shown as a trailer in select theaters.
In the past year or so, we’ve seen several startups — including Codecademy, Udacity, LearnStreet and others – rush in to fill the skills gap between what our digital economy needs and what students are learning. (Earlier today we covered the Peter Thiel-backed Thinkful, one of the newer startups in the learn-to-code space.) We’ve also seen the rise of technology high schools — like Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School recently endorsed by President Obama — that put programming and STEM skills at the center of the curriculum. But by featuring voices from industry, pop culture and politics Code.org stands to bring awareness to a wider group of people.
Below, check out the video: