Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource
Students in a mixed grade class in computer animation at Oakland Tech High School

Computer education is getting a big boost this week as thousands of schools, from Turlock to Tasmania, host coding lessons, assemblies and hack-a-thons as part of the annual Computer Science Education Week.

In California, schools in nearly every county are participating in coding events. In some schools, teachers are setting aside an hour to teach their students programs like JavaScript, while other schools are planning larger or more unique events. In Bakersfield, for example, a special education teacher is teaching coding to her students with autism. In Compton, a district-wide coding expo will include awards for best computer application. And schools in West Covina, rural Shasta County and Sacramento are inviting families into the classroom for free coding lessons.

“In a world of rapid technological change, all students need a basic understanding of how technology works,” said Hadi Partovi, chief executive of Code.org, a nonprofit that’s the primary force behind Computer Science Education Week. “As much as they understand biology or chemistry, students need to understand technology in order to understand the world around them.”

Code.org offers free instructions online for teachers — even those with no computer backgrounds — to guide their students in an hour of coding lessons. The lessons are available year-round, but Code.org, schools and technology companies give special attention to the topic this week.

Worldwide, more than 100,000 schools in nearly every country are participating. The hope is that teachers will be inspired to offer ongoing coding lessons as part of the regular curriculum, and schools will begin offering coding classes at all grade levels, Partovi said.

In California, several districts are already headed there. Oakland Unified and San Francisco Unified, using a $34.7 million donation from Salesforce.org, have trained teachers and purchased equipment to greatly expand their computer science course offerings. In Compton Unified near Los Angeles, grants from Apple and other sources have been used for computer labs, professional development and an array of new technology courses.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor, announced Monday a push for California schools to offer computer science classes to all students by 2025. The goal of the Computer Science for California initiative is to train more young people for careers in technology, which is a driver of the state’s economy, and diversify the technology field, which is predominantly male, white and Asian.

“California is the tech capital of the country and home to Silicon Valley, but we don’t teach our students the foundational skills to access the jobs of the future,” Newsom said. “Right now most schools in California don’t offer any computer science classes and sadly, that disparity is punctuated by striking gender and racial gaps.”

 

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