Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is not just the leader of the biggest company in the world, but is also a leading advocate for making coding a requirement in every public school.
In fact, Tim on a recent trip to France said: "If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding then English..I'm not telling people to not learn English - but this is a language that you can express yourself to 7 billion people in the world". In the same video, Tim went on to say that coding should be "required in every public school in the world". "It's the language that everyone needs, not just for the computer scientists. It's for all of us," said Cook.
Some argue that coding isn't essential for children as it will eventually be commoditized via outsourcing and then automation. While the jobs of tomorrow probably will be very different from today due to automation and outsourcing, the behavioral skills that children learn through coding will be timeless. At its essence, programming requires your child to write out instructions, for a computer to follow. This activity develops your child's capability to:
Tim said: "It's not just for the computer scientists. Creativity is in the front seat; technology is in the back seat. It is sort of the blend with both of these that you can do such powerful things now" he said.
By requiring coding in kindergarten and first grade, Tim also thinks its one step towards improving gender diversity in Tech (for more on this, read my article: 7 Proven Steps to Encourage Girls in STEM). Tim Cook told the MIT Technology Review "Because coding isn't introduced (early), it gets labeled somehow along the way from a societal point of view as a boy thing. And then you get less and less women going into coding. And then it is no suprise, that when you try to recruit as a company for people coming out of college, guess what, unfortunately the percentages are what they are."
Tim has been a relentless promoter of coding being a requirement in every public school. "We have a huge deficit in the skills that we need today versus the skills that are there," Tim told President Trump. "Apple is trying to do its' part, and hopefully more than our part, but leadership from our government is needed too."
In January, 2018 Apple announced that in order to help address the coding skills gap and prepare more people for careers in programming, Apple was embracing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) and working on new programs to support teachers and teacher training. Already Apple is making learning to program more fun with its free Swift Playgrounds App. Swift is Apple's open source programming language that is designed to make it easier for app developers to create something incredible.
This beautifully designed and powerfully effective App teaches children how to code with Swift. After having a paid subscription to Tynker and using code.org for over a year now, I decided to introduce Rizwan to Swift Playgrounds last weekend. He was immediately impressed! The attention to detail blew him away (the animation physics are top notch), and he appreciated learning to use actual code, instead of just using code blocks. Rizwan’s going to use Swift Playgrounds for the next month, and we’ll post a review and user guide soon.
In addition to Swift Playgrounds, Apple has worked with schools and colleges to offer free accredited coding courses that are now being taught in summer camps, K-12 schools and community colleges. In Dec 2016, Apple partnered with the city of Chicago to design a program that will enable 500,000 students the opportunity to learn to code. This Everyone Can Code year long program was designed by Apple to help anyone learn how to code. The comprehensive program includes a range of free resources, from helping students explore basic coding concepts to building fully functional apps. Starting spring 2018, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago will expand Everyone Can Code curriculum and materials to reach students citywide.
“Everyone Can Code gives students opportunities to learn new skills and develop a strong foundation in STEM to prepare them for a successful future in the 21st-century economy,” said Dr. Janice K. Jackson, acting Chief Executive Officer at Chicago Public Schools. “This initiative introduces coding curriculum that develops core skills, creativity, collaboration and problem solving, which will help lay the groundwork for a successful future.”
City Colleges of Chicago are just one of more than thirty community colleges across the US that are offering Swift curriculm to their students. The course takes students with no programming experience and enables them to build fully-functional apps of their own design.
“We’ve seen firsthand how Apple’s app ecosystem has transformed the global economy, creating entire new industries and supporting millions of jobs,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We believe passionately that same opportunity should be extended to everyone, and community colleges have a powerful reach into communities where education becomes the great equalizer.”
The Austin Community College District (ACC), one of the nation’s largest higher learning institutions, began offering the course to its 74,000 students in the fall of 2017. The city of Austin is pretty excited as evident by this quote from the mayor. “We’re thrilled to have Apple join our mission to make Austin more affordable for people who already live in the city,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Apple is going to be a force multiplier in the community’s ongoing efforts to lift 10,000 out of poverty and into good jobs over the next five years.”
In addition to community colleges in the US, Apple has deployed the Everyone Can Code curriculum internationally to over twenty international schools including RMIT, the largest higher educational institution in Australia. Tenisha Fernando, a fourth year RMIT student who has enrolled said. “The Swift programming language is used by developers to create some of the world’s best apps, and it would be great to join them in sharing my own ideas.”
Apple has also made it a point to feature younger developers at their annual worldwide developer conference, making time to celebrate them in their keynotes and recognize them in other ways.
Finally, Apple has partnered up with code.org to host free "Hour of Code" workshops in its Apple Retail Stores. Rizwan and Khadija had a great time programming Star Wars robots as you'll see in below video. In January of 2018, Apple announced that over 10,000 students and teachers had learned to code in this free program.
About a year ago, I signed up Rizwan & Khadija for coding classes at Code.org and Tynker. They've been coding on and off, and I've seen some compelling benefits.
At the Retail store, there was another boy of a similar age as Rizwan who was also learning to code. Both Rizwan and this boy struggled, and neither was able to program their robot to navigate the maze within the hour. However, both boys reacted very differently to this adversity. The other boy was obviously upset and embarrassed by the results of his robot.
He shouldn't have been embarrassed.
This wasn't an easy exercise. It required a lot of trial and error, making small tweaks to the duration, speed, and angles that robot was to follow. Precision matters!
It took me a while to get the hang of it myself!!
The mother tried her best to help her son, but he'd already given up and was no longer interested. He blamed his result on the droid, the course, the noise..everything but himself.
Meanwhile, Rizwan slowly and steadily made progress. While he too struggled to achieve the goal, he never gave up, lost focus, blamed others, or got upset. He already knew from his coding classes that this was a problem that could be solved and that he had the capability to solve it.
He's learning to be resilient!
These are skills that my children will leverage regardless of whatever career they pursue.
However, they will be especially valuable if they choose to pursue a STEM-related career.
The national average wage for all STEM occupations in 2015 was $87,570, nearly double the national average for non-STEM occupations. Also, employment in STEM occupations grew twice as fast by 10.5% between May 2009 and May 2015, compared with 5.2% in non STEM occupations.
Did you know that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2020, there will more then 1.4 million software developer jobs then qualified applicants to fill. Wow. Thats up from 500,000 unfilled coding-related jobs today! What an opportunity!
So for the month of January, I've challenged Rizwan and Khadija to code for 15 min every day for the next 15 days. The reality is kids nowadays are BUSY! So I'm interested to see what benefits the kids realize with only 15 minutes a day. Plus, we'll see if they're still having fun, see if this turns into a habit, and learn if this is something they want to pursue.
Over the next few weeks, I'll share reviews of Code.org, Swift Playgrounds and Tynker, and give you our recommendation on which platform to use. We'll also investigate other websites, classes, games, apps and best practices for learning to program. We'll even examine how to teach kids to code without a computer!
What do you think?
Leave a comment below or join us for the next 15 days.
Day 1 starts today!
With over 16 years of Operations Leadership at Apple, Iftikhar has had pivotal roles in launching the iPod, iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch. In late 2017, he launched k12toSTEMCareer.com with the goal of becoming a better parent to his children, Rizwan and Khadija. Today, over 1214 people follow Iftikhar's writings around STEM & Parenting. Read Iftikhar's personal story about his journey from an Introvert to a Director at Apple.
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