Alexandra Jordan and Super Fun Kid Time finally got me to put some thoughts down re: coding and its impact on youth culture. Who is Alex Jordan? She’s the 9-year-old fourth grader who dreamed up, designed and pitched her playdate app at TechCrunch Disrupt. Her (adorable) presentation and an interview are here. According to TechCrunch, she’s learning to code in Ruby and HTML with help from her father and Codecademy.
The bigger takeaway here is, as Mashable put it:
“Coding is 21st century literacy.”
And it is permeating youth culture in a profound way. It is mainstream. It is cool. It is hip. And it is a really big deal.
We don’t have to look very far to see evidence in pop culture. The Social Network was an Oscar-nominated film, grossing $200 million worldwide. The first of two movies about Steve Jobs flopped, but Ashton Kutcher was in it (he’s been spreading it around to coders for a few years now) and The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin wrote the second. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunited for The Internship (two dudes trying to get a coveted Google internship). And The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular shows on television. OK, it’s about nerdy physicists at Caltech and not coders, but bottom line: geek is chic.
Stories like Alex Jordan’s are becoming more and more common. A HuffPo article examined a teenage girl’s fickle taste in iPhone apps. But the most striking sentence to me was the following:
“Casey is a novice programmer and has customized the code on her Tumblr blog so it displays how many people are viewing it at one time.”
Casey certainly isn’t a hardcore computer science engineer. Nor is she a nerdy hacker. She’s a 14-year-old girl from Millburn, NJ. A digital native. A novice programmer. And an otherwise normal eighth grader. She and Alexandra are becoming the norm.
My good friend Jeff Novich, himself a computer science degree holder, serial entrepreneur, serial hackathon winner and product guy, predicted suggested that teaching computer science would be a prerequisite to high school graduation. He wrote the following in 1998.
15 years later, he may finally be right. In Massachusetts, Google, Microsoft, Intel and Oracle are backing MassCAN to push the state to require schools to offer computer science classes as early as eighth grade and introduce computing standards and coursework to state high schools. And I swear I read an article about one Massachusetts high school requiring coding skills to graduate. Maybe I was dreaming, but it will happen. [Update: I wasn’t dreaming. Beaver Country Day School outside Boston just made coding lessons a requirement. Thanks for the find, David Kern.]
And if it doesn’t, there are already plenty of private companies jumping into the mix to train kids and adults to code. Places like General Assembly and The Flatiron School offer complete beginners and seasoned veterans classes to learn expert coding. And web-based platforms like Codecademy and One Month Rails make it easy for anyone to learn from the comfort of their own home. Applications targeting kids specifically are popping up as well. CodeHS targets high school kids and teachers (in school or at home). And Hopscotch appeals to even younger kids around 8 or 10 years old.
I suppose coding doesn’t really break into pop culture until there’s a reality TV show (and Startups: Silicon Valley et al don’t count)! Can’t you see it now? American Coder. Project Hackathon. America’s Next Top Developer…
“Ready? Set? Code…”
PS – I may or may not be an investor in one of the private companies mentioned. Hit me privately for details.
PPS – I reserve all rights to the “Ready? Set? Code…” elimination reality show competition.
Image credit: CC by zzclef