Should schools teach students how to code? Viral video suggests yes

Drew Houston is the founder of Dropbox. He compares learning to code to learning an instrument or a sport.
Drew Houston is the founder of Dropbox. He compares learning to code to learning an instrument or a sport.

In the grand tradition of science fiction, it is time we accepted it — computers have taken over. So says Bronwen Grimes, a technical artist at Valve.com and one of the many young entrepreneurs featured in a video in support of programming curriculum in schools by the nonprofit Code.org. The video has gone viral, reaching over 9 million views in one week.

“Computers are everywhere,” Grimes says. “You want to work in agriculture, entertainment, manufacturing — it’s just all over.”
The video taps some big forces in software engineering — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Drew Houston — alongside boldface names from outside of the computerverse, like singer will.i.am and basketball star Chris Bosh. They make the case that programming helped them learn how to problem solve and that anyone can do it.

Professor Lev Manovich teaches computer science at the CUNY Graduate Center and writes about technology and culture. He says that countries like China are getting ahead of the United States by teaching programming in high school, and that students should be taught not only how to code, but how to understand programming concepts like how a web browser or a search engine works.

“I think we need to take a larger and more expansive view that coding is not just the only thing you need to know. It’s one element and there’s a difference between writing a program that has five lines and learning how Gmail works — a program with 5 million lines of code,” he says.

The film is set to show in movie theaters this week. A curriculum that includes computer programming, however, has yet to go viral.


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