Hadi Partovi is co-founder of Code.org, an organisation that aims to increase the numbers of young people who can code. The organisation launched #HourofCode to inspire the world to change education and make history by encouraging students to learn computer science.
Besides founding Code.org, Hadi is also a prolific entrepreneur and angel investor. He was on the founding teams of Tellme and iLike, and was an investor or early advisor to numerous startups including Facebook, Dropbox, Zappos and airbnb. When it comes to coding, Hadi knows his stuff! We reached out to him last year to get his thoughts on the importance of coding for kids and why technology is so important in our society.
ExamTime: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We are so excited to have the opportunity to talk with someone who is doing so much to encourage kids to code, experts to volunteer and celebrities to endorse the idea.
ET: To begin, can you tell us a little bit about Code.org and what you are trying to achieve?
Hadi Partovi: Code.org was founded with the vision that every student in every school deserves the opportunity to learn computer science. Just like we teach our children that red blood cells carry oxygen, or water is H2O, our goal is for every single child to learn at least the basics of how to program a computer, or to know how computers and the internet work.
ET: So why is learning to code so important?
HP: There are multiple ways to answer this question. At the most basic level, computers increasingly surround us in a world that’s overtaken by technology. The phone in your pocket is a computer. The car you drive has 100 computers in it. How you communicate, bank, shop, and even the food you eat and the doctor you visit – all of these are being revolutionized by technology, yet we are still teaching our children 20th century sciences and we should teach them not just how to use technology, but how to participate.
At the socio-economic level, software jobs are the best-paying jobs in the world, but we have a shortage of students to fill these jobs, and particularly a shortage among low-income and under-privileged students because their schools don’t even offer classes. So if we fix that, we can provide upward mobility (at a time of record inequality), and also have the opportunity to add 1 million jobs and $500 billion in salaries over the next 10 years.
ET: As you know, in this series, we are exploring the importance of learning to code from a young age. How well prepared do you think recent graduates are for the needs of the today’s society, technology-wise?
HP: Recent graduates are far more tech-savy than any time before, they all know how to use smartphones, Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, and all sorts of apps and web sites that their parents can’t figure out.
But what surprises most people is that fewer of today’s graduates learn to code than 10 years ago. We’re actually teaching it in fewer schools, to fewer students!
ET: How difficult is it for people to learn to code? Do you need any specific skills or competencies before you start?
HP: It’s like learning to read English. You start at Dr. Seuss, you get to Harry Potter, then Shakespeare, and maybe if you’re really into it you try James Joyce. Even a 7-year-old can learn the Dr. Seuss level of coding, the most basic skills they need are to read, and maybe addition and subtraction. There are even easier apps for 4 years olds to write simple programs before they learn to read. Of course, to get the top job in software you need to learn a lot more, but that shouldn’t stop people from learning the basics.
ET: Which, in your opinion, are the hottest programming languages right now? Why?
HP: “Hot” isn’t really the right thing to ask about, because today’s hottest languages may be irrelevant tomorrow. For example, ObjectiveC is super “hot” because people need to learn that to create iPhone apps. But who knows if the iPhone will be around in 15 years.
ET: You have many Business & Political Leaders and even Celebrities supporting Code.org. Why do you think they decided to join the movement?
HP: Because everybody wants our children to be prepared for the future, and this is a simple message. It’s great for our kids, for our economy, for our future, and it doesn’t involve any controversy or politics.
ET: Code.org seems to be more US oriented at the moment. Do you have any plans to extend your outreach to other countries in the world?
HP: I’m personally focused on the US first, because we have to start somewhere, we can’t do everything at once. But many of our efforts will surely spread to other countries. Our inspirational videos have been watched more times outside the US than inside. The curriculum tools we create will over time be translated to other languages too. But we likely will keep 90% of our focus on the US until the problem here is less dire. In many other countries (for example, UK, Australia), the national government is considering mandating Computer Science in public education for all kids starting at 8th grade. China has made it a high school graduation requirement. The US government is federal, and education is controlled by the states, so in this country our government leaders simply cannot make a sweeping change like that, it’s impossible – which is another reason to focus here first.
ET: Any final tips for kids that want to learn to code?
HP: Just try it. It’s easier than you think, and more fun than you may think. Unlike algebra or science class, you can build something you show your friends or your parents, you build some pride in your abilities, and then you improve on what you build and get better.
Visit Code.org and click the button for students and give it a try 🙂
ET: Thank you for answering our questions Hadi. We wish you the best of luck with Code.org.