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Powering Up: The campaign to teach computer science to a digital nation

By Lyndsey Layton May 19 – WASHINGTON POST

ABCCode.org, the non-profit organization that has gotten children as young as five years old to try computer coding, has joined with the College Board to try to expand computer education in U.S. public schools, particularly to girls and minorities.

Seattle-based Code.org, founded by two tech entrepreneurs, and the College Board, the New York-based non-profit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, are offering to help 35 of the country’s largest school districts teach new computer science classes.

. . . . To try to broaden the appeal of computer science, Code.org has designed a new AP Computer Science Principles class for the College Board that will be piloted in the fall and offered nationwide in 2016.

The current AP computer science class is focused on teaching the Java programming language . . . . The new course aims to be more interesting to a broader swath of students by teaching them how to make apps, how the Internet works, cybersecurity and other topics . . .

. . . . just one in 10 schools in the U.S. teach computer science. (Code.org) has funding from Microsoft, LinkedIn, Google and a number of other corporate sponsors, and it has received donations from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Its first initiative was Hour of Code, a campaign that offered free computer coding lessons to anyone in kindergarten and up. Celebrities — including President Obama, NBA star Chris Bosh and actor Ashton Kutcher — promoted “Hour of Code”, giving it a glamorous sheen that’s absent from most education initiatives. The result was stunning: More than 116 million people in 180 countries wrote some computer code through Hour of Code.

The organization also created Code Studio, which offers free online tutorials in the basics of coding. One out of 10 elementary and middle school students in the U.S. have created accounts with Code Studio . . .  Of those students, 43 percent are female, 22 percent are Hispanic and 15 percent are African American . . .

Jobs in computing-related fields are growing at four times the national average, and the 600,000 open computing jobs in the United States pay, on average, 85 percent more than the national median wage, according to Code.org. But fewer than 2.4 percent of college graduates have computer science degrees, and the field is overwhelmingly white and male.

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