Last week, the British government’s new “Year of Code” initiative got off to a rocky start. Critics raised questions over the feasibility of the new national curriculum, and the program’s director admitted she didn’t know how to code.The debacle took front and center in a recent PandoDaily article titled, “By September coding will be mandatory in British schools. What the hell, America?” It raised the question as to whether American schools are falling behind in the new digital arms race and what should our schools do about it.A national mandate on coding is nice in theory. But simply adding coding to the curriculum will not create coders.Schools teach more than facts and hard skills. They are wired to teach in a certain way, and this wires students to behave, think and learn in a particular way as well. One could say the traditional school structure resembles an “operating system.”In America, this OS is incompatible with the habits of thought that make good programmers. And if we want to honestly teach students how to code, we must first teach them to think like a programmer. It won’t work by having our education institutions simply download a “learn to code app”.Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my experience starting a school, Dev Bootcamp, that has taught over 450 students how to code. Read more at OPINION: Why That ‘Learn to Code’ App Won’t Work at Your School | EdSurge News.
It is a predictable college scene, but this Berkeley computer science class is at the vanguard of a tech world shift. The class has 106 women and 104 men.The gender flip first occurred last spring. It was the first time since at least 1993 – as far back as university enrollment records are digitized – that more women enrolled in an introductory computer science course. It was likely the first time ever.It’s a small but a significant benchmark. Male computer science majors still far outnumber female, but Professor Dan Garcia’s class is a sign that efforts to attract more women to a field where they have always been vastly underrepresented are working.”We are starting to see a shift,” said Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.Berkeley, Stanford and a handful of other universities have experienced a marked uptick in the numbers of female computer science students. Those increases have also coincided with a reimagining of computer science classes, especially introductory ones. In some cases, that meant doing away with aspects of classes that seemed to specifically discourage young women.For Garcia’s course, which is for nonmajors, the goal was to expand the class beyond “just programming,” to make it “kind of right-brained as well.”Berkeley put more emphasis on the impact and relevance of computing in the world, and added pair exercises. Each class begins with a discussion of a recent tech-related news article. Introduction to Symbolic Programming was reborn as Beauty and the Joy of Computing.While redesigning the course wasn’t strictly to attract women, said Garcia, “everything that turns women off, we reversed it.”Attracting more women to computer science is invariably a good thing. Nationally, women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, but only 12 percent of computer science degrees, according to a 2009 report by the National Science Foundation. This comes as technology industries rank among the fastest growing in the nation. But the way schools choose to attract women can pose a challenge.Gender-neutral models”It can be problematic to assume that all women are a certain way and therefore you should cater to that,” said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington psychologist who has studied stereotypes in computer science. “What we do today to get girls in the classroom could have adverse affects on girls later.”Cheryan pointed to “My Fair Physicist,” a much-cited 2012 University of Michigan study that questioned whether having more feminine role models in science and math fields could counteract the discouraging stereotype that those fields are unfeminine. The study found that feminine role models actually reduced middle school girls’ interest and perception of their own ability in math compared to more gender-neutral role models.For Sumer Mohammed, 21, Beauty and Joy of Computing got her hooked. Before registering, she knew nothing about programming, but decided based on her father’s recommendation and the course title that “it might not be boring lines of code everywhere.”Boring it was not. Read more at Tech shift: More women in computer science classes – SFGate.