Author: CM Rubin World | Date: 05 January 2018
Why were 600,000 high-paying tech jobs unfilled in 2015 in the United States alone, or is the better question: Is technology developing faster than humans can learn to handle it?
According to the White House, by 2018, 51 percent of STEM jobs will be in computer science-related fields. However, the number of tech employees has not increased along with the number of jobs available. Why? The answer is simple: lack of relevant education. The White House maintains that just one quarter of K-12 schools offer high-quality computer science with programming and coding. In addition, in 2016, the PEW Research Center reported that only 17% of adults believed they were “digitally ready.”
Coding has always been regarded as a mysterious field, something Derek Lo, co-founder of the new application “Py”, wants to change. Launched in 2016, the application offers interactive courses on everything from Python to iOS development. The “unique value proposition,” as Lo puts it, has been a revolutionary success. The fun-oriented application has so far resulted in over 100,000 downloads on both iTunes and Google Play.
Most parents frown when kids use their phones at the dinner table, but what if the kids were learning to code over Sunday roast? “Ok, so maybe not the Sunday roast, but seriously, could a more accessible and fun coding application make all the difference?”
The Global Search for Education is excited to welcome one of Py’s founders, Derek Lo, to discuss how Py’s revolutionary approach is literally making coding cool.
People say education today is often treated as a business and that individual students’ needs have not been prioritized enough. As the number of qualified applicants increases, can individualized learning tools, such as Py, help today’s generations remain competent in our globalized world, even with “broken” education systems?
Yes. As college acceptance rates decline, more people will need alternatives for learning career-essential skills, and we believe Py will be a big part of that. Using machine learning algorithms, we’re able to adapt the user experience based on prior skill and behavior within the app, creating a tailored curriculum. Having a personal tutor in your pocket that knows how you learn and what you should be learning is powerful and why we are investing in personalization.
Py provides its users with a simple and easy platform while many other coding applications (e.g. Solo Learn) have opted for more traditional and serious lesson plans. Does making learning applications appear more serious fuel the conception that coding is a hard and scary thing to learn? Are we over-complicating the field of coding and making it seem inaccessible for people or should students really be this wary of programming?
One of the reasons that my co-founder and I started Py is to demystify “coding”. We make it easy by making it fun. When you’re dragging pretty blocks around and pressing colorful buttons, it doesn’t feel like work. Yet users are still soaking up all the same knowledge they would be by slogging through a boring textbook. We also intentionally avoid programming jargon until the learner is ready. A good example is when we teach users about loops—-we use words like “repeat” instead of “iterate”. Almost all of Py’s courses are focused on teaching the fundamental concepts using simple language and in an interactive fashion.
Also, many people are scared away from learning how to code because they hear from friends that computer science is such a difficult major in school. An important thing to realize is that there’s a big difference between theoretical computer science and making a simple website. An art major might not need to understand Dijkstra’s algorithm, but would greatly benefit from knowing a bit of HTML and CSS.
What would you say to skeptics who question whether a game-like application like Py can truly help people learn how to code properly?
Gamification isn’t a hindrance to learning—-it accelerates it. By keeping you excited and engaged, Py teaches you better than if you got bored or zoned out. When you’re having fun, you actually learn faster and better.
Another way to phrase this question might be, “Even if Py is fun, do you walk away having learned something from it?” The answer is yes, definitely. We’re very data-driven, constantly improving our courses by analyzing our users’ progress. We can see (and track) real progress in our users’ ability to understand everything from basic semantics to high-level algorithms and design principles.
Do you think Py’s game-like surface allows younger generations to become more involved with coding?
Yes. We specifically write our content using language that even young children can understand. In fact, a parent emailed us just the other day telling us he was using Py to teach his 10-year old son Python! Currently our target demographic is definitely a bit older than that though. We think of Py as the learn-to-code solution for the SnapChat generation.
What general skills does coding teach kids/ young adults?
Coding can provide people with the awesome ability of being able to create tangible things like websites and apps. It also instills less tangible things like a greater aptitude for systematic thinking and logical decision making