You may know them best for hilarious satire and Segway shenanigans, but when it comes to promoting computer science, former Flipside funnymen Jeremy Keeshin and Zach Galant take things very seriously.
The two recent Stanford graduates (both Computer Science ’12) just founded an ambitious website called CodeHS, a site designed to teach computer science to high schoolers. Piggybacking on a growing trend in online course content (see Coursera and the Khan Academy), CodeHS takes advantage of the online medium to maximize the potential audience for their product, and for good reason.
According to Jeremy, former head TA of the popular CS 106A program, “almost no high schools in the country offer CS, but computer science education is critical for the jobs of the future. Everyone gets stuck when learning to program, and the focus of CodeHS is providing help from real people along the way.”
We wouldn’t let students graduate high school without learning how to read and write.
We shouldn’t let them graduate without learning how to code.” - CSinHS mission statement
Co-founder Zach sees it as a pragmatic concern. “We are trying to create a lot of buzz around the idea that coding needs to be taught in high schools, but there is so little CS education currently offered.”
Meeting market needs
As Zach and Jeremy note, computer science education fills an important void in modern secondary school education. Less than 5% of American high schools offer AP computer sciences courses, despite CS’s rapid growth as a lucrative field in the last few decades. Indeed, computer science education can guarantee stability and security to high school graduates of the recession era. While the nation at large is experiencing 8% unemployment, CS-related fields are experiencing even higher growth rates, with 100,000 unfilled CS-related positions this year. The Wall Street Journal ranked “Software Engineer” as its Best Job of 2012. ‘Nuff said.
As long as you have access to a computer and the internet, you’re ready to learn.”
The U.S. likewise needs to keep up with international trends in CS education so that American graduates can stay competitive. Estonia just instituted a program where all first graders learn how to code. Surely, American teens should have the skill set being mandated for 6 to 7 year olds in other countries.
So, what’s the game plan?
The two are launching a crowd-funding campaign called CSinHS to fund their project with a specific mission to teach 1,000 high school students how to program within the next six months. Their hard and fast goal is $100,000 by December 21st because the Mayans said so. The funding will enable them to launch their pilot program for the upcoming semester and pay for tutors to give debugging help and feedback, website and curriculum development costs, and integrating their platform with schools’ needs to make coding a permanent part of the high school curriculum.