ee CodeHS Blog

Top Tech Company Perks

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If want to work as a developer for a tech company, you’ve probably heard about how great it is to work in tech: the jobs are here to stay, and the pay is great. However, what you might not have heard about is the incredible “perks” that are offered at tech companies - outside of the box benefits for employees used to attract the best talent. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite tech company perks!

  1. Travel Stipends

As an avid traveler, this is easily my favorite perk - not just paid time off, but a stipend on top of that to take care of travel expenses! Companies like AirBnB and LoadSpring offer employees yearly four-digit stipends for vacation. Where would you go?

  1. Tuition Reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement is a very smart perk for companies to offer, as it provides benefit to the employee (further education) and the employer (more educated employees). Companies such as Google ($12,000), Apple ($5,000), Yahoo! ($5250), and Microsoft ($7500) make this perk available to all employees.

  1. Food!

Free food is increasingly thought of as less of a perk and more of an expectation - most companies in Silicon Valley offer at least some food. Lunch and snacks come standard, but many companies take it to the next level, all the way from Donut Days at Shopkeep.com (and CodeHS!) to complimentary breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, juice and snacks at Google.

  1. Unlimited Vacation

Lots of companies have great vacation policies - a select few have incredible vacation policies. Netflix, Hubspot, Zynga, Twitter, and Facebook all offer their employees the most relaxed vacation policy possible - unlimited vacation days to take as you need them.

  1. Office Supplies!

Many companies give employees the option to outfit their desks as they please, however these two really take it to the next level. Asana gives employees $10,000 to customize their desks, and Pintrest offers regular trips to the Apple store where employees can pick out anything they want.

  1. Snow!

To coincide with an Android launch, Google covered it’s headquarters in fake snow. Snow in sunny Mountain View? Talk about a perk!

What would you like to see as a perk? Heard of any cool ones not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments or tweet to us @codehs!


 - Will McCambley

This Week in Learn to Code 7/18/2013

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Welcome to “This Week in Learn to Code!” If you’ve already begun to learn, this is a chance to pat yourself on the back for having made a great choice. If you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start!

1. Coding skills translate!

This first article dives deep into an idea that we often talk about here on the blog - coding is a skill that can be widely applied to any discipline. This article examines the ways in which different chemistry students and professors at Stanford University use computer science to make them more effective chemists.

2. Computer Science is for the birds!

A team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London has created a program that can pick out individual bird’s songs from large choruses of birds to identify which species are present. The next step? Creating a program that tracks conversations between birds to try to determine the meaning of different sounds and the relationships between the birds.

3. Work on amazing technological projects!

Earlier this week, Google announced a partnership with Novartis to create contact lenses for diabetics that will help correct vision damaged by diabetes and automatically monitor blood glucose levels via tears. This is an exciting project for a couple reasons - first and foremost, it means that diabetics will no longer need to puncture their skin to measure their glucose levels. Currently, the most popular way to measure them is to poke a hole in one’s fingertip, collect the blood, and then measure it. Measuring the glucose levels in tears is less invasive and can be done automatically. Secondly, the involvement of Google likely means that it will be tied into other pieces of technology, like tracking software, and automated insulin / glucose delivery devices that would make it easier for diabetics to treat themselves.

Have any ideas about cool ways to apply coding to biology or chemistry? How about health sciences? Let us know in the comments below or by tweet to us @codehs!

  - Will McCambley

Why Study Computer Science in College?

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Choosing a subject to major in in college is a daunting task - 20 to 50 percent of  students enter college with an undeclared major, and a many as 75% of students change their major at least once over the course of their college career. Computer Science is often overlooked in discussions about what to major in - many students hesitate to apply because they don’t want to be pigeonholed as a software developer, or they mistakenly believe that you need years of specialized knowledge to even approach the degree. This blog post will attempt to clear some of these misconceptions up, and discuss a few reasons why YOU should study computer science in college.

1. Computer science can help you in any career

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding coding is that CS majors get stuck working on unimportant widgets and websites in the bubble of Silicon Valley, and that coding only helps coders.

Coding is a skill, not necessarily a career. Your career prospects are constrained not by your major, but the collection of skills that you have accrued. Coding can be applied to nearly any other interest in order to improve it. For example, journalists use coding to create immersive and innovative web experiences relating to their articles and economists use coding to efficiently process and analyze large sets of data and to create large-scale simulations. Coding can, and should, be applied to any discipline to make your work more efficient and effective. It’s just a matter of combining your interests and applying your skills.

2. Computer science can be lucrative

Our second reason is the reason that everyone talks about - computer science is, and will continue to be, very lucrative. CS consistently ranks as one of the highest paying career tracks, with a starting salary of close to $60k, and a mid-career salary in the $100k range. At the current pace at which CS majors graduate, there are expected to be a surplus of more than a million computing jobs between now and 2020.

3. Computer science is creative

Being a competent computer scientist allows you to solve important problems in new and interesting ways.

Programs like Code For America, which has produced awesome tools including Adopt a Hydrant (allows citizens to volunteer to dig fire hydrants out of the snow in the case of inclement weather to save emergency services valuable time),  Aunt Bertha (helps users easily learn about and apply to food, health, housing, and employment programs) and Reroute.it (caluclates the environmental impact of different transportation choices), pair programmers with experts in other industries (in this case civil servants) in order to harness this creativity productively to solve problems using software.

Even further, a new generation of artists is using code to express themselves creatively. Artists like Yung Jake (nominated to Sundance for his HTML-5 “music video”) and Sus-Boy (tapped to create a website for major clothing brand Mishka and electronic music artist Skrillex) are blurring the lines of code and art to express themselves. CodeHS users do this as well; the exercise “Draw Something” in our Basic Javascript and Graphics is an open ended challenge to users to draw whatever they’d like using Javascript. I’ve included some of my favorites below.  Coding offers incredible opportunity to be creative - whether by using new tools and problem solving methods to create solutions, or to use the medium to create art.

There are a lot of compelling reasons to study computer science in college. Coding is a valuable skill that can be applied in any career. The ability to code boosts your career prospects dramatically, and allows you to flex your creative muscle.

Are you an undecided major? How have you used coding to express yourself creatively? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @codehs!

 - Will McCambley


This Week in Learn To Code 7/11/2014

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Welcome to “This Week in Learn to Code!” If you’ve already begun to learn, this is a chance to pat yourself on the back for having made a great choice. If you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start!

1. Computer Science Grads Fared Well in the Great Recession!

The U.S Department of Education released a report earlier this week that looked at how college major effected the post graduate life of students who graduated during the great recession. Computer science students have fared very well, with a median salary of $66k and an average work week of just 42 hours. 

2. Business Schools are starting to make coding a requirement for MBAs!

Schools like Harvard, NYU, and Stanford are planning to offer computer science elective courses for their MBA students. This arose from the increasing demand for technically skilled MBAs. We love this idea, because we really believe that coding skills can be used by anyone, regardless of career. Mitchel Resnick, a Professor of Learning Research at MIT put it eloquently: “To thrive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to design, create and express themselves with digital technologies.” That’s a beautiful idea - coding as a method of creative expression.  

3. Technology to the rescue, again!

If you’re a regular reader, you might notice a bit of a trend emerging here - each week, I like to save the last spot for a piece of technology that can help change the world. This week, it’s a 3d printed tool to help the visually impaired read. It fits around your finger like a ring, and reads aloud the text that that finger is pointing to. The software involved is surely incredibly complicated - the problem of determining exactly what word is being pointed to is a huge challenge all on it’s own. Learning to code is the first step on the road to being able to write such incredibly helpful software.

Are you planning to study CS in college? Are you a graduate student who wants to learn to code? Have an awesome idea for a helpful piece of technology? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting us @codehs! 

 - Will McCambley

Introducing Simplified Pricing for Schools

We are excited to announce that we have simplified our pricing structure for schools and districts.  After hearing a lot of valuable feedback from the teachers and admins we worked with this year, we realized that a simpler pricing system would work much better for you guys!  Check out our new pricing page here.

CodeHS basic membership is now priced into larger buckets, providing teachers and schools with much greater flexibility in determining class sizes.  To receive pricing information or purchase a CodeHS membership for your school, all you need is the rough number of students in your class (or total number of students) and the length of the class/membership (either a semester or school year).

We’ve also made some great changes to our membership purchase process itself.  Teachers and administrators can now easily view pricing for their class/school, download or send a price quote to involved parties, and proceed through the school checkout process with no assistance needed!  Of course we are still happy to help with any specific questions, so please shoot those our way at schools@codehs.com.  Additionally, for schools and districts larger than 500 students, please contact districts@codehs.com and we’d be happy to provide you with pricing information.

The goal of this change is to simplify pricing for schools and districts, not to increase costs. In most cases, class membership prices will stay the same or even decrease.  There are some instances in which class membership prices may increase; please shoot me an email (max@codehs.com) and I would be happy to discuss any of these cases.

Thank you for checking out our new pricing structure and page. Contact us today to bring CodeHS to your school for the fall!

-Max and the CodeHS Team

This Week in Learn To Code 7/4/2014

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Happy independence day, and welcome to “This Week in Learn to Code!” If you’ve already begun to learn, this is a chance to pat yourself on the back for having made a great choice. If you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start!

1. You’re learning more than just how to code!

One of our major beliefs here at CodeHS is that learning to code has benefits that far exceed simply learning the syntax of a new language. The author of this first article agrees with us. I won’t jump into the specifics because the article is very much worth a read, but the author’s positive and growth centric outlook on life is inspiring. 

2. There are so many good reasons that it is hard to choose just one!!

This article, from The Irish Times, does a great job of highlighting many awesome reasons to learn to code. I’ll run through a few here - we hear the story of Jordan Casey, a 14 y/o entrepreneur and Ed Tech pioneer, and James Whelton, a former problem student who is the brains behind CoderDojo. We explore the connections between coding a creativity, and how most great coders simply view coding as a new way to express that creativity. We hear from novelist and programmer Vikram Chandra about topics like bio-hacking, and finally, explore the issue of diversity in the tech workforce. 

3. Technology is catching up to sci fi

This is a fun article that runs through some of the major technological guesses Star Trek made, such as the existence of tools like the Tricorder, Communicator, Replicator, and Starship Enterprise and ties them to their closest counterparts in real life. How does this relate to learning to code? All of the described products are combinations of space age manufacturing and brilliant software engineering. Learning to code can help us get involved with amazing projects like these and help take hardware to the next level by creatively expanding on it’s functionality.

Have any crazy sci-fi inventions you’re still waiting on? Has coding empowered you in amazing ways? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting to us @codehs. 

 - Will McCambley

This Week in Learn To Code - 6/27/2014

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Hello, and welcome to “This Week in Learn to Code!” If you’ve already begun to learn, this is a chance to pat yourself on the back for having made a great choice. If you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start!

1. More and more schools are accepting CS as a graduation requirement!

For a very long time, many have bemoaned the lack of computer science instruction in US high schools. Thankfully, that tide is finally starting to turn. Florida is the 22nd state to accept CS as a graduation requirement. This is huge, for several reasons. First, more students exposed to code means more students who are able to use code to improve their lives and the lives of others. This is great for current high schoolers, because you will be able to get credit for this incredibly useful skill - there will be millions and millions of opportunities for code-literate graduates to get jobs in the coming years. For the rest of us? Along with this new legislation comes the assumption that it will lead to increased participation in CS classes, and more coders. Soon the rhetoric may change from “Learn to code to get ahead!” to “Learn to code to keep from falling behind!”

2. Google (and many others) think it is a really great idea!

Google recently launched it’s Made with Code initiative, aimed at getting more young women to participate in STEM fields, specifically computer science. We really like this initiative,  - more CS students in general is a good thing, but anything that takes action on rectifying the gender gap in STEM is even better. At CodeHS, 40% of our users are women. Hopefully we see that number grow as our users grow as well!

3. You can control computers with your brain!

Ok, not quite. This video shows a proof-of-concept of a cross between brain-computer interfaces and self driving cars. The brain interface learns to recognize the difference in brain patterns between telling a car “Turn Left” and “Turn Right” The car can drive on it’s own (just like the Google car), but takes directions from the “driver” (“brain driver”?) when it comes to an intersection. Towards the end of the video, they experiment with totally controlling the car with the brain. Pretty cool. Coupled with recent advances in helping quadriplegic patients use their limbs, it’s clear brain-computer interfaces are becoming better and better.

Got any good ideas for an application of a brain computer interface? Are you a interested in gender equality in coding? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @codehs.

 - Will McCambley

This Week in Learn To Code - 6/20/2014

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Hello, and welcome to “This Week in Learn to Code!” If you’ve already begun to learn, this is a chance to pat yourself on the back for having made a great choice. If you haven’t started yet, now is a great time to start!

1. The computers are learning now too!

The University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence set out to solve the problem of processing the enormous wealth of information on the internet. They saw that people who needed to find information online consistently encountered two problems - first, finding a specific niche item can be near impossible due to the volume of information one needs to sift through, and second, finding ALL of the relevant information available on any given topic is nearly impossible for the same reason. Their solution was to create a fully automated computer program named LEVAN (Learning Everything About Anything) that searches through digitized books and creates a map of relevant images using object recognition algorithms. Try it out here!

2. Because we need to catch up!

This article dives into some topics that we haven’t spoken much about yet in this column - the societal benefits of learning to code. The United States is floundering compared to countries like South Korea and Iceland when it comes to Computer Science. We have the best CS universities in the world, yet only 45% of CS students are American. According to the article, other countries are quickly outpacing us technologically and it is essential to our economic and military prospects that we produce more proficient coders. With civic organizations like Code For America producing useful applications like Adopt-A-Hydrant, a service that allows citizens to volunteer to dig out fire hydrants after heavy snowfall, I’m inclined to agree with this author. More CS means more coders ready to help solve problems, and that’s a good thing. 

3. You can create robots that can do anything!

In the past, we’ve discussed robots several times in this column. Fast robots, learning robots, you name it. However, this robot may be one of the most impressive yet. HitchBOT is a robot built with one singular purpose - to hitchhike from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia. hitchBOT joins the ranks of Tweenbot (I highly recommend the linked video) and BlabDroid, two other robots that rely on human help to achieve their purpose.

BONUS: Learn to program in Arnold C!

Is coding too boring for you? Does the syntax of languages like JavaScript and Python get you down? Have you ever wished that you could show your computer your sweet Arnold Schwarzenegger impression? Well, dear reader, wish no more - ArnoldC is here to solve all of your woes. ArnoldC is a programming language based on the most profound one liners Arnold has uttered on screen. Check out the documentation here.

Found anything cool on LEVAN? Given a ride to a hitchhiking robot? Has your computer picked up an Austrian accent? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @codehs!

Will McCambley

Top Ten Tech Tools for Teachers

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There are a plethora of educational technology tools available online, and it can be hard to tell a great tool apart from a dud. We asked some of our favorite teachers for their input and did a little research to compile this list of the 10 Best #EdTech Tools for Teachers. Enjoy!

Screenr

Screenr allows teachers to easily create and share screencasts. A screencast is a video and audio recording that combines the images on your screen with a voiceover of you speaking. They’re very easy to create - just hit record, and the program starts recording via your microphone and capturing what you see on your screen. When you’re done, the video is uploaded and you get a link that you can send to others to share the screencast. Screenr is used to do things like capture powerpoint presentations for students not present or teach students how to use a new web tool.

Remind (Formerly Remind 101)

Remind is a great messaging tool for teachers. It’s a simple web / mobile application that allows teachers to blast text messages and documents to parent and student’s cell phones. The beautiful part about their model is that it allows direct communication without revealing sensitive information like personal phone numbers to either party.

Socrative

Socrative is a very cool ap that takes the idea behind the classic ‘clicker’ and builds upon it. For those unfamiliar, a clicker is used by teachers for real time quizzing - the instructor asks a multiple choice question, and the students select a button on their clicker to respond. Socrative takes this to the next level by allowing a huge amount of customization, being present on multiple types of devices, tying identity to answer, and making displaying answers and providing feedback easy and intuitive.

Edmodo

Edmodo is an educational social network. ‘Social’ has become a bit of a buzzword these days, and social media has wreaked havoc in schools all over the country, but Edmodo really gets it right. It looks and feels a lot like Facebook, which may be it’s biggest strength - kids understand it right out of the box. It fosters discussion outside of the classroom, hosts assignments and documents, and allows teachers to get input from the students who are quiet in class but eager to contribute. Why do I love it? As a student who was prone to losing assignment sheets, being able to pull everything from the cloud would have been a dream.

Padlet

Padlet is an online tool that can be used to create bulletin boards around any topic. It is as simple as it sounds, yet it can be taken in some very cool directions. Check out the Odyssey timeline example to see it in action.

Newsela

Newsela aims to teach reading comprehension using current events - nothing new there. The novelty of  Newsela is that it allows you to customize the difficulty of the reading material to fit each individual student’s needs, quiz and collect data, and track progress over time. Much like Socrative, Newsela uses technology to make vast improvements to an existing idea.

TenMarks

TenMarks is a math curriculum modeled after SBAC and PARCC that dynamically updates to fit the needs of each student, provides support when students are stuck, and provides tools to cut down on a teacher’s workload by automating assignments, grading, and assessments.

Diigo

Diigo is a way to collect and annotate reading materials for a group. What does that mean for teachers? You can post all documents, notes, and annotations in a single place hosted in the cloud. Diigo also caches everything you post, meaning it will exist regardless of whether or not the original document is still online. Useful, easy, and intuitive!

Desmos

Have you ever been frustrated by the fact that the price and quality of graphing calculators in the classroom has not changed in 30 some odd years? Desmos changes that. Desmos is a beautiful, easy to use graphing calculator that can handle advanced graphing and is usable on any device. Pretty cool!

Google

Last but not least is the juggernaut, Google. Google’s suite of tools is my personal favorite. They have an incredible variety of free applications - Gmail and Hangouts for communication and backchanneling, Docs for creating collaboratively and sharing, Groups for collecting and curating, Calendars for scheduling - the list is nearly endless. Google Classroom, which weaves together existing google functionality into a platform tailored to education is coming soon, and you should be very excited.


What are your favorite tools? What do you use on a daily basis? Is there a tool that doesn’t exist that you dream about? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us @codehs!

Will McCambley

Meet a Tutor: Brittany Zeo

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Brittany Zeo

Computer Science student at SUNY-Institute of Tech

Tell us about yourself…

I am a junior in college, I am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Computer science and I can’t wait to get out of college and get a software development job.

How did you get into coding?

I started coding in 9th grade because there was a “robotics” class that used Alice and that is how I got started, after that I took AP Java, web design, and Honors Java in the following three years.

Do you have a favorite program that you’ve worked on so far?

A cool project that I have worked on is one that I have just currently finished, and that is an action scheming program that the user can move blocks around and the program will give the user the steps to get from the initial state to the “goal state”.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

My favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip :)

Words of advice for the next generation of coders?

My words of advice is to just keep going. Even though things may seem difficult to grasp, it doesn’t mean that you should give up because if you are passionate about coding, than you will succeed.