With their innovative, open and collaborative pedagogical methods to teach programming, third-party organizations may efficiently supplement institutional education in the future.
Software is everywhere. It affects every aspect of our lives. From medicine to video games and agriculture, all major businesses and industries are being altered by software. We use it to communicate, to move around, to buy, to interact socially, to entertain ourselves, to make our voices heard… As stated by Marc Andreessen in what can now be seen as a foundational manifesto, “software is eating the world,” and the computerization of our society is an unprecedented tidal wave. It is predicted that by 2020 there will be a shortfall of more than one million computer programmers in the United States alone (Source: US Department of Labor). Unlike the dissension surrounding change, there is a consensus: we’d better get ready to swim.
Technology rules our world, yet how many of us are really able to understand code?
Programming Is Tomorrow’s Literacy
“Programming is how we talk to the machines that are increasingly woven into our lives. If you aren’t a programmer, you’re like one of the unlettered people of the Middle Ages who were told what to think by the literate priesthood. We had a Renaissance when more people could read and write; we’ll have another one when everyone programs,”
states Tim O’Reilly for Code.org.
Programming is a skill that we should master if we want to go from passive consumers to real actors of the digital world. Programming opens up the field of possibilities while stimulating curiosity and creativity. It allows us to bring new ideas to life, create tomorrow’s tools, think logically and find solutions to complex problems, in any domain. Coders have a “maker mindset” that gives them the ability to rethink and adapt the systems that surround them, to come up with new and more performing solutions. In this matter, code plays a central part in fostering innovation and maintaining economic competitiveness.
Twenty years ago, we learned foreign languages to live in a global world and get better jobs. We are now facing an incredible technological boom. Schools should give the next generations all the necessary tools to prepare for tomorrow’s world, to control technology. And not be controlled by it. But as programming is quickly becoming the core competency to handle for most 21st century workers, there’s no getting away from it: the world is not training enough developers. Thriving Silicon Valley startups are starved for tech talent, and businesses are relentlessly searching for new approaches to finding the coders they desperately need. From Singapore to Estonia, governments around the world have already implemented programs that initiate children into programming as early as elementary school, but it’s not enough.
Toward New Ways of Learning How to Code
This tragic observation is leading more and more non-profits, communities and startups to provide new ways of learning how to code. Will third-party organizations bridge the tech education gap? The least to say is that they are playing a vital role, as evidenced by Codecademy and its 25 million online learners to “Hour of Code,” Code.org’s astonishingly successful worldwide campaign that yearly encourages more than 100 million kids and teenagers to discover programming for free. According to StackOverflow’s 2016 survey, two out of three developers are self-taught, choosing alternative ways to learn that do not lead to a university degree. Impressive, but logical. While the Internet is offering a growing range of initiatives for inventive, collaborative, and participatory programming learning, it seems that we’ll only be able to achieve the scale needed to meet computer science training demand with the support of these non traditional learning methods.
As stated in the 2009 MIT report “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age,” modes of learning have changed dramatically over the past two decades while our schools and educational systems have hardly changed for two hundred years or more. The many platforms where programming learning is now free and accessible to masses truly rival formal educational systems and challenge institutions on every level through innovative pedagogical methods. For instance, educational gaming can now be seen as a viable alternative to formal education, but other types of virtual environments such as Massively Multiplayer Online Games are also being recognized for their educational components.
Providing Teachers with Alternative Tools
Will the future of computer science learning have to rely more heavily on those global, collaborative, open learning spaces which encourage self-learning? Tech education will not be dealt with by institutions alone, so let’s not divide our strengths. The best way to teach computing is probably to support and encourage Computer Science teachers in schools and universities so that they step up the digital challenge. Every software professional, startup and organization should contribute to this goal.
We, at CodinGame, have done our part by supporting wholeheartedly the 2016 Hour of Code program with a tutorial that provides an easy introduction to bot programming.
“Our mission is to empower programmers, whatever their educational or professional background, to learn the skills they need to reach their full potential in today’s world, for free. We want to encourage coders to learn more about AI, computer vision, and machine learning. These are the skills of the future, and we’re here to help people keep up with fast-changing technologies,”
says Frederic Desmoulins, CodinGame’s CEO.