To build a competitive workforce in the future, we must support students today. This is especially true for computer science, which traditionally has not been part of the curriculum of many schools, but will affect virtually all jobs in the future. Hadi Partovi is the founder of Code.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to information technology and increasing the participation of women and underrepresented minorities. The organization works directly with school districts to provide educational programs and educational resources so that every student has the same opportunity to learn computer skills while learning about biology, chemistry or algebra.
What is the vision behind Code.org?
Starting Code.org has a lot to do with my personal story. When I was a kid, my family immigrated here from Iran. We had very little. My father, who had been a theoretical nuclear physicist in Iran, taught me how to code when I was only ten years old on a Commodore 64. With this experience, I was able to get an internship in the ninth. year in a tech company while all my friends were waiting tables.
Most kids do not have a father like mine, and they do not have the opportunities I had. But instead of teaching ourselves to children, Code.org has adopted the approach of working within schools. We provide tools for teachers to teach children – teachers do most of the work. It's not easy being a teacher these days, and parents and their school systems are putting a lot of pressure. And frankly, it's scary for them to take a new field. So we try to help them. The incredible work that they do is the source of inspiration for what we do at Code.org.
Why is it so important that children are learning computer science today?
Many people think that we only want to teach children to code, but there is much more to computing than coding: such as data analysis, cybersecurity and network operations. And today, every industry is affected by these things – they change everything. Schools must give students a well-defined background. It's like biology: every child must understand photosynthesis, even if he will not be a botanist. Not that all children should graduate as an encoder. Many will continue to be nurses, lawyers, or other careers, but they all need to understand the basics of computer science.
What prevents some people from learning computer and coding?
Many people are intimidated. We have discovered through our work that there is a better way to motivate them than to simply offer them the opportunity to learn how to code. We help them to imagine something that they want to create. Once someone thinks: "I want to build X", it's much easier to focus on the tools they need to learn. It's much less intimidating.
Code.org has become extremely popular in kindergarten to grade 12 education, giving children early access to technological skills. What advice would you give to children who want to learn to code, but who do not have access to their school's programs?
There is one area that has the most self – taught experts and that hosts the largest number of dropouts, that is, computer science. There are tons of resources to learn by yourself. All the resources we give to schools are now available online. We also include links to third-party resources. And we have a map that shows third-party courses – workshops, summer camps, or online – as well as our own courses, so that no matter who can find one that works.
How do computer demographic data change through organizations like Code.org and others?
Building diversity in the world of technology is one of our main motivators. This is an area dominated primarily by white men of the upper middle class. Equality of opportunity is the cornerstone of the American dream, but it does not appear in the field of fastest growing and best paid. Many efforts have been made to improve computer diversity, but it is impossible to fully balance scales without involving school systems. It's because we worked through school systems that we were able to help more than 9 million girls learn to code. This is a big step forward to level the playing field in computer science.
What role does technology play in the management of your business and specifically how does Salesforce help you connect with students and teachers?
We use Salesforce tools for all our e-mail communications with teachers and donors. Code.org uses Pardot (owned by Salesforce) to send personalized emails to our 600,000 teachers. We also use Salesforce CRM tools to track our donors.
How can we support your mission?
Code.org fans can support our mission in many ways, like volunteering in a classroom, buying a T-shirt like a girl code, donating money, helping translate our program or work as a volunteer engineer in our open source code base. See all options at http://code.org/help
You can also organize a code hour in your school, an hour-long introduction to computer science, designed to demystify the "code" and show that anyone can learn the basics . The hour of the code takes place every year during the computer education week. The 2017 Computer Education Week will be held from December 4 to 10, but you can schedule a code hour all year.
To learn more about Hadi, join him at Dreamforce during the opening speech of Small Business Essentials on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 11:30 am at Moscone West. You do not arrive in San Francisco? Tune in the keynote and all the action of Dreamforce on Salesforce Live.
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