“Computer science education is a liberal art that every citizen of the 21st century should get a basic exposure to – just like you learn how to dissect a frog, you should learn how to ‘dissect an app.’ But 90 percent of schools don’t teach it because they’re still teaching what was taught 200 years ago.” – Hadi Partovi, USA

Today we are kicking off Computer Science Education Week, and what better way to celebrate than by learning how to code? If this sounds a bit intimidating, well, Hadi Partovi is here to tell you otherwise. His non-profit organization, code.org, has already convinced over 3 million students that they, too, can learn how master this critical 21st century skill.

Partovi, an entrepreneur and investor, co-founded Code.org with his twin brother Ali Partovi. Code.org is dedicated to growing computer science education by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. They believe that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer programming, and they advocate for computer science becoming part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.

“Computer science education is a liberal art that every citizen of the 21st century should get a basic exposure to – just like you learn how to dissect a frog, you should learn how to ‘dissect an app’,” says Partovi. “But 90 percent of schools don’t teach it because they’re still teaching what was taught 200 years ago.”

How does Partovi plan to change this? For starters, with “Hour of Code.” The Hour of Code campaign aims to demystify computer science for students across the country by taking them through introductory tutorials that can be completed online, on a smartphone, or even “unplugged” for schools that do not have computer access. The campaign aims to introduce coding to more than 10 million students during the week of December 9-15, 2013. Code.org is offering multiple online tutorials to encourage students of all ages to engage in an hour of code, and they have even developed their own tutorial in collaboration with engineers from Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Facebook. It will feature guest lectures by “famous” coders like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. According to Partovi, their tutorial will not only teach coding, “but it will feel like a game” by featuring artwork from “Angry Birds” and “Plants vs. Zombies,” two hugely popular online games. Participating classrooms will have the chance to win prizes like 10GB of free storage from Dropbox, a full class-set of computers, or even a group video conference call with a technology titan (think Bill Gates or Susan Wojcicki) to kick off their Hour of Code. Students who take a follow-up course online will have a chance to win additional prizes, including Skype credits and online gift cards. It’s a great way to introduce students to coding, so give it a try by participating.

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Hadi Partovi!

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

My dad co-founded Sharif University, one of the most prestigious technology universities in the Middle East, and was a professor for most of my childhood, so I have education in my blood. Anybody who cares about making the world a better place cares about education. Whether you want to help the poorest of the poor, or advance the future of the human race, both depend on education.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education? 

My English teacher, Mr. Naething. By far the strictest master I’ve ever seen in a classroom, and everybody’s favorite at the same time. He taught me that discipline is something that everybody can learn to love, if it’s delivered with love. And that Shakespeare is not as boring as it seems.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work? 

Well, founding Code.org has had a lot of impact so far: over 3 million students who watched just our launch video have gone on to try learning computer programming online.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work? 

Yes, we are using technology to teach people how to create technology, so it’s very self-referential. The best way to learn computer programming is to have a computer help teach you.

In your opinion, how has the use of apps, cellphones, and mobile devices changed education? And your work? 

These devices mean that everybody is more familiar, which means two things for us: (1) there’s a greater need and awareness of the need to educate everybody in the basics of how technology works; (2) there’s a greater opportunity to use the devices themselves as the instrument of instruction.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today? 

By far the most exciting thing is e-learning, whether you call it blended-learning, a flipped classroom, or massive open online courses (MOOCs), the idea that a student can learn via a computer (and obviously aided by a human teacher), promises true democratization of high quality education.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

Yes, computer science education.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why? 

A web-connected computer (desktop, laptop, tablet, whatever). Because it opens the door to all other education for the rest of their life.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

The US “Race to the Top” program has been a great success for enabling federal funding to provide incentives for a locally-run education system to collectively move to improve achievement.

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century? 

In an ideal world, the United States should provide a federal reward to states that bring computer science classes to every school in the state.

About Hadi Partovi

CEO, Founder, Code.org

Code.org

Bellevue, Washington, USA

@hadip

  • Birthplace: Tehran, Iran
  • Current residence:  Bellevue, Washington, USA
  • Education: Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science, Harvard University
  • Website I check every day:  Facebook, Gmail
  • Person who inspires me most: Living person: Bono
  • Favorite childhood memory: “Inventing” a telepathy helmet that could convert your thoughts to send them to somebody else wirelessly. (I was 7 or 8, so it was just drawings.)
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): New York City
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why?  Just now, when I read this question. Because laughing is good for you. J
  • Favorite book: Hamlet
  • Favorite music:  U2, The Joshua Tree
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?  Life advice: know yourself. Management advice: hire great people.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
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