File Under: Web Basics

Teachers Are the Key to Everyone Learning to Code

Code.org recently made a splash with its high-profile supporters — everyone from Bill Gates to Snoop Dogg have offered up their support for Code.org’s premise: that everyone should learn to code.

While Code.org’s goals are admirable, the movie above spends near zero time talking about what might be the most important part of the equation: computer science teachers.

The Code.org website has info for interested teachers, but the emphasis is still clearly on enticing students to want to learn to code. That’s great, but what about CS teachers?

To prepare for an upcoming talk at the annual Python conference, Pycon, Mozilla data architect and PostgreSQL contributor Selena Deckelmann recently started talking with actual High School CS teachers and has some surprising, if depressing, take aways about what we can do to help kids learn to code. Deckelmann’s survey is admittedly informal and rather small, but it’s a start.

Deckelmann reports that “reading comprehension is the biggest barrier to completion of AP Computer Science” and that “continued existence” is the biggest battle for a computer science teacher every year.

Deckelmann cites a 2010 report that found “the number of secondary schools offering introductory computer science courses dropped 17 percent from 2005 to 2009 and the number offering Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses dropped 35 percent in that time period.”

More encouraging is that students at one high school learned three languages in three years (C++, Java and Python).

It’s also interesting to note that Deckelmann says “the CS teachers I’ve met want to share their lessons — with me and with other teachers,” and that “the CS teachers I’ve met don’t know other CS teachers.” That sounds like an opportunity for some kind of social site if anyone is interested — just be sure to talk to some actual teachers before you start building.

If you’re planning to be at Pycon this weekend be sure to check out Deckelmann’s talk “What teachers really need from us.”