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We are really excited to announce some new features on CodeHS that will make it better for everyone to get involved in learning how to code, and getting help along the way. We believe it is really important to get help from people when you learn, and with the newest updates on CodeHS, students are also teachers.
CodeHS is a paid website—-because providing you quality help from real live humans costs money. But now, there are two options to get help. One is still the same—become a member of CodeHS and you’ll get debugging help, feedback, and grading on all of your programs. But the second options is new.
You can also get help by helping others.
When learning to program, everyone gets stuck along the way. As you go along, you can help others who are a bit behind you, and try and explain to them some of the problems you just figured out. When you peer grade others, you earn credits, and you can use those credits to unlock and get help on later problems.
We want CodeHS to be a community of people learning and teaching computer science. There are always people ahead of us who we can learn from, and even after just a bit of coding, there are people behind us who we can help out.
We hope you can get involved in learning and helping on CodeHS, and send us an email at email@example.com if you have any feedback or questions.
In Obama’s State of the Union address yesterday, he said:
“Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.”
He’s not saying so explicitly, but the specific solution to the problems Obama outlines is computer science education in high schools. Let’s take a look at these requirements one at a time.
What are the “demand of a high-tech economy”? The demands of a high-tech economy are creating students that are digitally literate. Computers are used for work, for study, and will become an increasing part of day-to-day life no matter what field you enter. Teaching students to program is about teaching creators, not just consumers. When we say computer science at CodeHS, we mean “problem solving with computers,” and we need to teach this sort of critical thinking to students.
What are “skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future”? This one has a clear answer as well. While much of the economy stagnates, there are a small handful of booming fields, and one of those is computer science. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 30% of the 1.4 million jobs created in CS-related fields will be able to be filled by 2020. There are about 100,000 more available jobs in CS-related fields than CS graduates, and this trend is only going to worsen at the current rate.
Why? Because computer science is decreasing, not increasing in high schools. Intro CS courses have decreased by 17% since 2005, and one of the major AP CS tests has been cancelled. Only 5%—yes only 5%—of high schools offer AP CS. There is little interest in the field from many students because, in general, we do a bad job introducing the subject. There are a small handful of amazing CS teachers across the country, and I have been lucky to meet many of them, but most schools do not have a CS teachers. We have a problem conflating a “computer class” or a “technology class” with a “programming” or “computer science class.”
Proficiency in Microsoft word is not equipping our graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. Teaching reasoning, decomposition, abstract thinking, and problem solving with computers does.
Many people want to learn to code these days. It is a mad rush to “create your first website” or “make an app.” However, I’d like to offer a short list of best practices when learning to code. We’ve helped to teach thousands of students to program while we were students at Stanford, and now teaching high schoolers and students of all ages at CodeHS.
1. Keep an open mind.
When you learn to program, and you haven’t programmed before, there will be a lot of new ideas. Be willing to go with the flow.
2. Be willing to play around
One of the best ways to reinforce a programming concept when you are learning is just to play around with it. Maybe you learn a new command, a new function, a new concept… try to do the given example, but try to modify it a little—-just to see what happens.
3. Style counts
When we teach programming and computer science at CodeHS, we focus on getting the program to work, but also on writing a program that has good “style.” What I mean by style is that the program is broken down in a reasonable way, and that an effort is made to make it understandable for another person who may come along and read the program.
4. Ask questions
Everyone gets stuck when learning to program—I promise. However, a big part of how well you learn is how you respond when you get stuck. Try to ask good questions—often the promise of formulating and asking the question actually helps clarify the problem you are having.
5. Focus on fun
Learning a new skill is about a million times more interesting when it feels fun. This means find a way to work on it that fits in your schedule, but one that is reasonable and maintainable.
Those are just a few tips, but the best way to learn is to just to get started! With CodeHS you start writing your first program in just two minutes.
This summer, I fell in love with computer science. The exciting, infatuating, I-can’t-get-enough-of-you kind of love. What makes this newfound love so interesting is that, like something from a cheesy romance movie, it should not have happened.
I never thought that I could learn how to program. Lumped into the “STEM” category, computer science seemed far too complex and math-heavy for me. You see, I’m more of the social sciences type. For years I avoided “sciency” courses as I would the plague and cut myself off from discovering the joys of programming.
All of that changed a few months ago when a friend introduced me to CodeHS. Solving puzzles with a dog named Karel seemed harmless enough (i.e. no difficult math involved). This slow approach helped me see that computer science is not actually a secret art practiced by a select group of geniuses. Rather, it’s a way of viewing the world and using a set of tools to solve real-world problems. Next thing I knew, I was hungry for more.
- Kurt H, political scientist and Russian scholar
Before I got introduced to CodeHS, I had only learned a little bit of programming with lego’s and scratch. Then, when a tutor came to our school, he introduced us to CodeHS! I started learning programming on CodeHS. Starting from the easiest programs of 4 lines to the hardest 100 and beyond, I learned all the essentials of programming.
I think CodeHS is really good for learning because the videos and tutors taught me step by step. After each concept, I got exercises to get proficient at that concept. With the perfect balance of new concepts and old concepts, by the end of the session, I was ready to use all my knowledge to make the hardest programs. The progression is great.
- Daniel A.
Here at CodeHS, we are thrilled that it is CSEdWeek. We are in the middle of pushing a campaign called CS in HS, with the goal to teach 1,000 high school students to code over the next six months. We are building CodeHS to make it easier to bring computer science to high schools.
So then, what is the problem?
CS Ed Week right now is a classic example right now of internet activism. If you look at the stats regarding CS education—the conclusion is obvious: CS Education is important. So there are lots of people tweeting stats, pledging on the CSEdWeek website, and a handful of articles.
On the positive side, there are a handful of events being held, unfortunately these may just be one-and-done type of events. When CS Ed Week is over, then where are we?
We need more to happen in CS education. Instead of just pledging to “say that you think it is important,” do something! We are teaching students now and next semester. Not in a few years, or in a decade—right now. We have schools and teachers lined up who want to use CodeHS to teach next semester, but we don’t have the resources to make it happen.
Let’s make CS Ed Week a jumping off point for more real action. This requires efforts on all fronts—with policy, with marketing, with teachers, with schools, with actual classes happening now.
We believe that CS can be in HS. If you think it is important, get in contact with us. If every person who “pledged” on CSEdWeek.org contributed $20, we would be teaching 1,000 students next semester. This can happen, but don’t just tweet about it—do something.
When a friend of mine first linked me to CodeHS.com, I immediately got interested. Why? CodeHS is not the only programming course. But it’s different.
I started digging through the website to see what it was all about. I learned: CodeHS and the CSinHS campaign are aimed at teaching high school students how to code. In the year 2006-2007, there were over 26 million students enrolled in high school in the United States. “Imagine if they all learned how to code,” I told myself. That’d mean an extra 26 million potential workers in the field of computer programming in America. That’d mean an extra 26 million potential world-changing projects like Google, Facebook or Wikipedia. That’d mean a better future for America.
The founders and staff of CodeHS and CSinHS realize that this is a big challenge, but they’ve decided to take it on. How? I wondered. I created an account on CodeHS and started investigating the course. I was simply amazed. It had it all – the course started off easy and simple, you simply have to tell a dog named Karel to do things:
This helps the student who’s doing those exercises to learn about sequencing, a key concept to learn as one starts to program. There are many wonderful and fun exercises on CodeHS that make the process of learning a breeze. And if a student gets stuck, there’s no problem at all. CodeHS has a human-feedback-and-help interface; in other words, you ask for help, and an actual tutor takes a look at your code and tells you whether you got it right, how to improve your code, or how to proceed if you got stuck.
The CodeHS and CSinHS family wants to share this wonderful course with 1,000 high school students in the United States. At some point in 2013, one thousand students would’ve earned a new skill that would accompany them for every part of their future lives. On the other hand, CodeHS can’t do it without your support. Give one student the gift of coding by contributing $100 to the CSinHS campaign. You can sponsor a whole high school by contributing $10,000. It’s impossible to do without your support, so go contribute any amount of money you can now. You’ll be helping shape a better future for those students and America. It’s worth it, believe me.
Guest Post by: Abdul Baset Aljoudi
Finally, I created a new game from scratch, which I call Roulette. Getting the numbers and colors correct, making the wheel spin, showing what “bet” had been made, then identifying the winner was the challenging and exciting culmination of my course, and I got to choose that game myself.
Believe me, if I can learn to write code and create something interesting and unique on the computer, your young minds can run rings around me and enter a whole new world of computer challenges and fun. And, besides, the world you will grow up in will be dominated by computers and will demand and reward those with programming skills with fascinating new jobs and opportunities. Go for it.
You can play Roulette here.
Guest post by Fred Zimmerman.
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